From England by way of Australia, Allo Darlin’ delivers pure, unadulterated baroque pop with the perfect mix of whimsy and wonder. Evoking the likes of Glasgow’s King and Queens of Gloom and (Day)Dreams, Belle and Sebastian (both with and without Isobel Campbell), and the under appreciated San Francisco collective Beulah, Elizabeth Morris and company make the sort of music that cannot help but recall memories of yesteryear. Let’s be clear, this record isn’t going to light the world on fire or redefine music as we know it, but it is so pleasant and precious (in the positive sense) that you can’t help but want to whirl around in the foolish and carefree ways and days of adolescence (or at least I can’t) . From the opening track “Neil Armstrong”, Europe sets itself out as an album that revels in the traditional tropes of youthful reflection, querying, and amorous longing: “Then why did you say that you miss a simpler time/well so do I and I find myself pining for you.” Like Belle and Sebastian and The Smiths (the par excellence of tongue-in-cheek pop), Allo Darlin’ are adept at hiding sad and dark double meanings in saccharine sounding tunes that will get you bouncing and bopping around. Isn’t that just like life? In addition, as keen sociologists of “growing up”, Allo Darlin’ are fond of inserting references to the power and influence of music on our lives and personal narratives throughout, see “Some People Say” (“You play the song that to me has a hidden meaning”), “Tallulah” (“the DJ played another terrible song but lucky for us we found a bar with the Maytals on”), and “the Letter” (“I pictured you singing Silver Jews“). But, the most curious and evocative line of all appears on the album’s closing number, “My sweet friend”: “You said a record is not just a record/records can hold memories/all these records sound the same/and I’m full up with memory.”
But, it’s not all morose and passive remembering, the questioning and bittersweet recollections are catalysts to seek and strive for more. Just listen to the way Elizabeth Morris inflects “I keep having these dreams” on “Capricornia” or the closing lines of “Still Young”: “Hey baby, take me home, I feel so cold, and you’re so warm, let’s bring it back… ’cause we’re still young.” There is no abandon or resignation in her voice, but the feeling that there will be something better or more tomorrow. If this reminds you of another record I discussed, i.e., the Japandroids Celebration Rock, then you are picking up on what I’m getting at. Although musically very different, both bands use a lyrical formula that has always worked in “pop” music: using the past and especially the days of youth as inspiration and lessons for the future. For me, a really good record doesn’t just please the ears, get your body grooving and offer witty reflections on life and the world (but that is a good start), it also can helps to inspire us or remind us to take another look at our life and not dwell on merely the dark moments. Allo Darlin’ does this with great aplomb in a simple and sincere way while filling you up with a bevy of mirth-filled tunes.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your ticket for a jaunt over the Atlantic and across the Continent, listen to Allo Darlin’s Europe in its entirety here.