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ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) - Roses & Clover

ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra), Roses & Clover

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ALO (ANIMAL Liberation Orchestra) shot to prominence in 2006 after supporting Jack Johnson’s world tour and signing to his Brushfire Records label. Their subsequent album, Fly Between Walls won many friends (ourselves included) and gave rise to the rather excellent single Girl, I Want To Lay You Down.

The follow-up, by their own admission, is a progression that’s designed to mark a richer, more mature sound built around their individual songwriting strengths. Hence, the album encapsulates elements of roots rock and bluesy jazz as well as 70’s disco and even a little calypso.

It’s not as immediately endearing as Fly Between Walls but it does have some fine moments, not least because it maintains an upbeat vibe that sounds like the band has had a good time making it.

Album opener Maria, for instance, is a celebratory love song that basks in the sunshine vibe that seems to be inbuilt on the Brushfire label, while the tinkling piano intro and smooth soul vibe of Empty Vessel (A Pledge Of No Allegiance) somehow manages to sound breezy in spite of some melancholy lyrics about lost love. It’s a richer sound than Maria and more classic American in feel.

Try emerged as one of my personal favourites. It’s the sort of sunshine filled offering that conjures images of warmer weather, sandy beaches, campfires and alcohol. The reggae vibe injects the track with an utterly endearing quality that is arguably the sound of ALO at their best.

But the mixture of styles continues on title track Roses & Clover, which again opts for a more soulful, piano-backed approach. It’s sophisticated, extremely laidback and boasts a moody vocal performance that’s strangely reminiscent of latter-day Eric Clapton (with a hint of blues). It’s good, however, rather than great.

Thereafter, the album continues to showcase a strong songwriting ability without ever properly catching alight. Monday is catchy enough and features some nice vocal layering as well as some wonderful guitar playing, but it’s missing something to make it really special; Shine flirts with some more reggae influences and is tender, intimate and hopeful, and Plastic Bubble captures a breezy acoustic vibe that’s closest in spirit to Jack Johnson material.

But as consistently easy listening and engaging as the album is, it fails to make the leap from good to great and the suspicion remains that you actually won’t leave it on the stereo player for too long (especially with new albums from Johnson and Matt Costa on the way). It’s a happy diversion rather than essential listening.

Download picks: Try, Shine, Plastic Bubble, Water Song

Track listing:

  1. Maria
  2. Empty Vessel
  3. Try
  4. Roses & Clover
  5. Monday
  6. Shine
  7. Plastic Bubble
  8. All Alone
  9. Lady Loop
  10. Water Song
  11. Just Like Heaven