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Animal Liberation Orchestra
Fly Between Falls
Brushfire Records

Horribly named jam band seeking summer cookout gigs

If surfer-songwriter Jack Johnson was throwing a party, chances are the Animal Liberation Orchestra would be on the guest list. With their easygoing vibe and breezy melodies, this California jam band rolls Jack Johnson, Phish, and Los Lonely Boys into a phat one and smokes it over a summer barbeque.

On [their] fourth album Fly Between Falls, the San Francisco quartet is as carefree as ever, but their airy, Latin-flavored sonics can belie relatively weighty topics. "Barbecue" is a backyard roast about drinking to broken dreams, "Spectrum" covers marital disputes, and "Possibly Drown" loosely issues a warning about the dangers of a deceptive canal. And then there's "Waiting For Jaden", a sweet song with a train-beat shuffle that chronicles the birth of lead singer Zach Gill's daughter. It also highlights the humor in Gill's all-too-open songwriting: "We wanted to have her naturally/So we searched out all possible remedies/Hot sex, nipple stimulation, Castor oil, gory movies."

Aurally, Gill's voice is a hybrid of Uncle Kracker and Los Lonely Boys' Henry Garza. ALO is also heavily under the influence of Phish, as guitarist Dan Lebowitz plays with the same clean guitar levity and feel-good arpeggios that make him a true Trey Anastasio protégé. And like Phish, there's also protean piano jams and other turns at the microphone that result in odd 'n' trippy tunes like "The Gardener".

The Animal Liberation Orchestra is one of the worst band names next to Hoobastank, but ALO's offbeat songwriting and happy-go-lucky attitude redeem their ill-advised name. Don't expect to hear an actual orchestra, though.

So take another sip of your Corona, put on the blindfold, and swing hard at that piñata. The Animal Liberation Orchestra should be welcome at your barbeque.

-Ken Devine

Standout Tracks: "Fly", "Wasting Time (Isla Vista Song)"

Track Listing:
01 Barbeque
02 Possibly Drown
03 Pobrecito
04 Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down
05 Spectrum
06 Shapeshifter
07 The Gardener
08 Waiting for Jaden
09 Fly
10 Wasting Time (Isla Vista Song)

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