Album Review: Kaleo – A/B

June 10, 2016admin

In anticipation of it’s release, we were blessed to find out that Kaleo’s album was streaming online days before it circulated around. The Icelandic quartet, made up of JJ Júlíusson (vocals and guitar), Davíð Antonsson (percussion and vocals), Daníel Ægir Kristjánsson (bass guitar), and Rubin Pollock (guitar and vocals), have steadily gained notoriety and for good reason; think Hozier meets Kings of Leon with a little Black keys thrown in, but adding their own flair of folk and soul to their craft.
Today they have just released their full-length Atlantic Records debut A/B. As the music flows through your ears, pressing play never felt more natural and taking your headphones off never felt so far-fetched.

The album brilliantly opens up with “No Good,” where the band perfectly embodies the true essence of blues-rock with thundering vocals by lead singer Jökull “JJ” Júlíusson that compliment the gritty sounds of the classic guitar riffs and the pulsating drumbeats. 

Followed by “Way Down We Go,” where JJ’s falsetto vocals stop you dead in your tracks, leaving the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and giving you instant goosebumps. The delivery is packed with passion and exudes emotion; its lyrics “You let your feet run wild / Time has come as we all oh, go down” insinuate the day of judgement has come and the journey down to hell has begun. 

“Broken Bones” hits the nail right on the head with true blues roots. The track opens with chanting lyrics “The devil’s gonna make me a free man / the devil’s gonna set me free” and pays homage to the time of segregation and slavery with the rattling chain sounds of the tambourine. Every consequent note and word heard here emulates what a monster of a song should do: extract emotions from its audience. The album heads into a more up-tempo beat with tracks like “Glass House” and “Hot Blood” where lead guitarist Rubin Pollock gets to shine; intertwining his strings throughout as JJ’s adrenaline-filled vocals touch on metaphorical topics. Where “Glass House’s” lyrics speaks of fragility “Just keep on walking / You know I do the best I can” and “Hot Blood” urges us to continue pushing on and getting up “You wanna reach for the things that nobody can.”

Shimmering in its purest form, “All The Pretty Girls” leaves listeners drifting into a state of tranquility with its serene and smooth falsetto. The compelling track’s sound is as gentle and innocent as the waves crashing upon a shore, where each echo from his voice captures his aching bliss.

Touching back on their Icelandic roots the band enters with the folky “Vor í Vaglaskógi.” As we may have heard many times before, there is no language barrier in music and this track confirms that music doesn’t necessarily need to be understood to be appreciated. Its acoustic layers and ethereal vocals illustrate an alluring image to the mind; where rays of the early sun cast a light to the dew drops on a field of flowers.

To close, the album winds down with the down-tempo “I Can’t Go On Without You.” An exceedingly romantic nostalgic plea, the track takes listeners back to the soulful blues. Smooth yet filled with agony, JJ’s howls echo into the foggy distance; broken from an aching heart.

For a band far from home, Kaleo have sure done their research on the roots of rock and roll, soul and the blues. With cohesive and multifaceted sounds, their musical versatility pushes boundaries that legitimatizes the rock stars they truly are both at home and abroad.

Full tracklist below:

  1. No Good
  2. Way Down We Go
  3. Broken Bones
  4. Glass House
  5. Hot Blood
  6. All The Pretty Girls
  7. Automobile
  8. Vor í Vaglaskógi
  9. Save Yourself
  10. I Can’t Go On Without You