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Paloalto
Paloalto
American Recordings


Paloalto is perhaps best described as the band that Radiohead once dreamed of being…and somewhere along the way lost themselves. This eponymous record has all the intrinsic power of the first Radiohead album, without the British high-falootin’ attitude. Paloalto crafts songs both powerful and intimate, using effects to enhance, not hide behind. Listening to this record is a visceral experience, full of emotions and undulations and desire and tears. Not for the timidly intellectual, or the overly Radiohead-brainwashed, this record is a gem worth many thousands of Kid A’s and OK Computers.

"Depression Age" starts off the record with a hint of feedback and pounding drums. There is no better way to begin a record than that, my friends. James Grundler belts out the lyrics like a man obsessed, and the guitar work is powerful, yet not overly domineering. On "Sonny," these five fellows merge emo-core guitar work with a brilliant melody, and take you from 2 to 10 to 0 to 2 again. Dynamic in its entirety, this song is a standout track and holds itself together with well-written lyrics, and fantastic stop and go beats. "Monolith" begins with a super Thom Yorke softness and finesse, but extends it to blossom, rather than leaving it for dead. A perfect example of why Palo Alto outshine the gods of Brit-pop, this track is fully fleshed out with grooving organ tracks, haunting tremolo guitars, and a moving vocal presentation. Track 4, "Throw the Brick," is my favorite on this record, and delivers a powerful, unfocused view on relationships and break-ups. It’s one of those rare songs that begs for volume, and never becomes tedious on repeated listening. The guitar is exactly where it needs to be, the melody lines are fantastically delicate and complex, and the emotions are so, so real. The E-bow/feedbacky guitar is a bonus, and more ably accomplished than at any point in recent musical history. On "Home," Paloalto slows things down another notch with a song that yearns for a comfort that seems so illusory. It is a sparse, minimalist approach to the expression of intense loneliness and madness. Beatles organ and acoustic guitars dominate the sound. Bringing the album back up to tempo, with a Townsend-like intensity, is "Some Things Must Go This Way," moving little track, with crisply recorded guitars and excellent harmonies, highly reminiscent of post-original-British Invasion era rock and roll.

"The Mayor and The Seizure Pills" is a wonderfully melodic track, using all the emo guitar tricks it can fit, and that’s not a bad thing. It is tasteful, emotional, and beautiful. One may expect more Radiohead influence based on the title of the song, but fear not, citizen! This track is intricate and intimate, and a wonderfully friendly tune with a powerful chorus, and a lyrical message full of immediacy. "When you’ve had enough love, when you’re breaking up slow, You will fly…" "Coming Back From The Sun" takes the hand of the listener and leads them along a path of rich acoustic textures and raw emotions. From the light preamble to the rich, heavy textures of the chorus, "Coming Back…" is a masterful song. With a bit of a swing, "Too Many Questions" has an air of 80’s style pop, but a depth that belies that simplicity. "Swim" has a distinctly different feeling than the rest of the record with an air of joy and overt hope. It is a song that makes the listener feel as if their soul has just jumped out of their body and is soaring to new heights. "Beauty of Disaster" has a Queen-like vocal delivery over a lush bed of tingly guitars and strings. This track returns the album to an earthly feel despite its tremendous dynamic second-half. The mood has been set for "Made Of Stone," the final track we are given here, and possibly the most dramatic. It is a track incandescent with swirling, textural guitars and keyboards, and full of restless anxieties. Perhaps this is the point where Paloalto and Radiohead cross closest, and also the point where this young band outshines Radioheadbrightest.

It is difficult to find the words to describe an album without a weak link, because as humans we always seem to find it easier to find fault than beauty. Paloalto has defied a piece of humanity and crafted an album resplendent with beauty and emotion, with no weak links in sight. Perhaps Paloalto IS the missing link between Radiohead’s Pablo Honey and The Bends as so many of my friends like to tell me. But I think that this album transcends Radiohead, and all that they ever were. Rick Rubin has done a fine job of production, proving that to make a brilliant pop album, one need not be from the Islands. Paloalto has a bright future if this record is an indication, and I look forward to hearing more and more from them…if only they can avoid the same pit-traps that Radiohead has fallen into.

–David DeVoe

Track Listing:

  1. Depression Age
  2. Sonny
  3. Monolith
  4. Throw the Brick
  5. Home
  6. Some Things Must Go This Way
  7. The Mayor and the Seizure Pills
  8. Coming Back From the Sun
  9. Too Many Questions
  10. Swim
  11. Beauty of Disaster
  12. Made of Stone


Mike Doughty



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