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Alternative & Indie - Released May 6, 2016 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 6, 2016 | Polyvinyl Records

Midwestern experimentalists Aloha have earned a reputation over the years as musical shapeshifters, working the outside edges of post-rock, indie pop, and even jazz while generally adhering to their own code of restlessness. Following 2010's more guitar-based and indie rock-oriented Home Acres, they return after a six-year break with the mesmerizing Little Windows Cut Right Through, a lush synth pop set that recalls '80s art-pop acts like the Blue Nile and Talk Talk. It's also the most immediately accessible and mature album in their catalog, teeming with quality songwriting and clever studio craft. From the bright, Balearic shades of opener "Signal Drift" to the sensuous warmth of "One Hundred Million," this dreamy new sound suits them well. Frequently known for their focus on percussion, Aloha continue to play with rhythms, rarely taking the more straightforward path even in the context of what is essentially a pop album. Lyrically, singer Tony Cavallario's themes of self-doubt and existential reflection add a melancholy tone that offsets Little Windows' bright production. On "Moon Man," a mid-album standout, he sings "to be human is to be terrified, nothing scares you more than wasting time" before launching into the song's exultant chorus. The appealingly moody "Swinging for the Fences" is another highlight, pitting dark against light over a sound bed of new wave chill. As a whole, the album sits quite nicely as each song transitions smoothly to the next with a well-designed cohesion. Still, there are a number of strong tracks that could even serve as potential breakout singles for Aloha, which is a rather odd thing to say about what is generally considered a post-rock band nearly two decades into their career. Whether or not they remain in this mode on future outings, Little Windows is a wholly engaging set that boasts plenty of vision. © Timothy Monger /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released December 4, 2007 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 9, 2010 | Polyvinyl Records

Thirteen years and going strong, Aloha deliver another atmospheric, percussive, post-rock record in the vein of classic Thrill Jockey artists (particularly Sea and Cake) that balances mathematical playing and subdued, dreamy soundscapes. Operating from four separate area codes (Washington DC, Brooklyn, Boston, and Cleveland), the four members wrote Home Acres by using a private-band blog over the course of three years before reuniting to record the album. Surviving distance and some roster shifts, the group still sounds like a tight-knit unit. The vibraphones have been toned back, and the songs are along the lines of their last outing, Light Works, in a toned-back indie pop style that sounds a little like latter-day Death Cab for Cutie or Built to Spill. “Searchlight” screams mainstream, with a big, sweetly exhaled chorus about craving good days and sunshine, but most of the other songs aren’t as overtly hooky, and focus more closely on the art of syncopation without being showy. Multi-instrumentalist T.J. Lipple does a nice job filling the gaps without overwhelming the mix, while the rhythm section zig-zags smoothly behind Tony Cavallario's crystalline vocals. Home Acres never breaks any new barriers and it's less cerebral than earlier outings, but it’s a good, consistent listen that showcases the band in their comfort zone. © Jason Lymangrover /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 4, 2007 | Polyvinyl Records

Aloha began as a moderately abstract post-rock outfit, but there has always been a distinct pop influence even in their most cerebral efforts. Light Works, which at seven songs is just over half-an-hour, is either a short album or a really long EP, brings the band's gentle indie pop side completely to the fore: gone are the extended instrumental musings, the jazzy vibraphone solos, and the overall sense of musical connection to the softer side of the Chicago school of post-rock. In its place, Light Works offers seven sweet-and-sour chamber pop tunes built on acoustic guitars, chiming keyboards, minimal bass and percussion, and Tony Cavallario's lighter than air vocals. The Shins and Sufjan Stevens would be obvious contemporary touchstones, especially on songs as straightforward as the sweetly poppy "The End" and the gently wistful "Passengers." But the most on-the-nose comparison to the sound of Light Works is mid-period Talk Talk, circa The Colour of Spring. There's a similar sense of spaciousness to these effortlessly pretty and determinedly non-rocking tunes. The proggier end of Aloha's fan base might find Light Works distressingly insubstantial, even verging on (horrors!) "commercial," but for their last couple of albums, Aloha have slowly been moving in this more song-based and concise style anyway, so this is more of a culmination than a change of direction. © Stewart Mason /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released February 10, 2004 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 19, 2007 | Polyvinyl Records

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Pop/Rock - Released April 11, 2006 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 11, 2006 | Polyvinyl Records

With Some Echoes, Aloha craft an imaginative amalgam of all of their favorite musical fruit. Fusing prog rock and indie pop, the disc builds ambitiously on the acclaimed Here Comes Everyone, as evidenced by the lush, stunning ballad "If I Lie Down" and the psychedelic rock redux opener, "Brace Your Face," which puts the group with Cleveland origins in the company of classic bands from the turn of the '70s. Vocalist Tony Cavallario's voice is as lucidly charming and necessary as the band's prog leanings, a notion affirmed by the swooning joy of "Align Your Eyes" and the guitar-driven "Weekend." Still, the united talents of this group are unmistakable throughout Some Echoes, from the percussive attack of "Mountain" to the noodling expanse of "Ice Storming." © John D. Luerssen /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released October 26, 2004 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 26, 2004 | Polyvinyl Records

Aloha's fourth full-length for Polyvinyl, Here Comes Everyone, opens kicking and screaming in a stunted 6/8 aggressive drum and angular guitar pattern. It is yet another foray into the group's penchant for progressive rock and -- when it breaks into the chorus saturated with keyboards -- melodic indie rock. Titled "All the Wars," this opening track is a prime example of what Aloha have been picking away at over their career, a forceful yet accessible strike into new and interesting ways to defy the expectations of modern rock & roll. To say no one has made similar approaches is foolish, but to give Aloha a nod for doing it better than most is most appropriate. At times, as in the pulsing "Summer Away," the group adeptly channels rock icons the Police, most notably through the impressive vocals of Tony Cavallario, but also with the liberal use of marimba and vibes (the inclusion of the latter has been arguably the most intriguing staple of Aloha's career). Other sections of Here Comes Everyone lilt through cascading lucidity, less demanding and robotic, and bring to mind the pleasantries of shuffling through the lazy haze of a low-key, late-summer night when the simplest objectives seem to hold endless majesty and wonder. Essentially Here Comes Everyone is a testament to Aloha's musical dexterity, an audio portrait of a band expanding its palate in an ornate, organic web, and a striking one at that. © Gregory McIntosh /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released May 14, 2002 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 5, 2004 | Polyvinyl Records

After having become known as "that one band with the vibraphone," Aloha continues to throw tons of other toys into the fray on their sophomore LP, including piano, synthesizers, and extra percussion. The ten songs on Sugar are somewhat of a new direction for the band. This is seen partially in the lack of the free jazz that so enveloped the last full-length, That's Your Fire. Much of Sugar contains a more '70s pop/rock feel, with a large, full range of instruments to back it up. With the use of the synths and piano and an unconventional approach to songwriting -- yet speaking to a primarily indie rock audience -- the approach may be hard for many to appreciate. Yet there's a flow to the album that makes it almost seem effortless and the end arrives too soon. While not a comfortable, relaxed listen, Sugar is by no means grating; rather, it takes a concentrated, sensitive ear to catch all that makes this a deeper album than the average slop too many listeners are inoculated with. Many bands seek to reinvent themselves with each release, and Aloha has certainly accomplished as much with Sugar. © Kurt Morris /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released May 16, 2000 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 5, 2004 | Polyvinyl Records

Aloha emphatically trumps their pair of mostly exquisite Polyvinyl EPs with an even more exciting debut full-length album that further blurs the distinction between prog rock, jazz, pop, and post-rock while extending the legacies of all of them. That's Your Fire is a wildly adventurous recording, full of vibrant experimentation and improvisatory chance taking that is consistently pulled off. Although the band delves into innumerable musical genres, there is no mistaking their identity, thanks in large part to the sensational musicianship of the four band members. Aloha's deep and dreamy basslines, complex drumming, and mystically sparkling rhythm guitar would have been enough to set them apart from similar-minded peers. But the ubiquitous presence of vibes, as well as Tony Cavallario's melodically flexible vocals, renders the music mantra-inducing, which in no way implies that the quartet is all otherworldliness and no edge. They jump from the ethereal (the delusory oases of "Liberty" and "Heading East") to the spasmodic (the angular, punk space-age bachelor pad Devo of "Last Night I Dreamt You Slept Beside Me") with ease, ricocheting from the hulking pop anthem "Ferocious Love" to the jazz-funk fusion of "A Hundred Stories" to free jazz. None of the songs follow verse-chorus-verse structure, and yet the album is a perfect example of daring songwriting that still retains an insatiable catchiness and sonic cohesion. Aloha have scaled back their excessive tendencies. The melodies are stronger and more fully fleshed out. The only quibble that can be leveled at the album is that its songs bleed into one another to the point that it takes numerous listens to separate them from one another. It is impossible to pin an Aloha song down because it veers off down so many paths, not just stylistically but melodically and texturally as well. Because of the band's virtuosic instrumental skills, the songs never spin out of control, and yet the intensity of the listening experience is so relentless that you can't help but wish they had allowed for a few moments to pause between songs. As it is, That's Your Fire is a gorgeous, impressionistic sound painting. It frequently surprises a listener with its almost story-like breadth, ebbing and flowing but always moving the narrative toward a conclusion. It may occasionally verge on aimlessness, but it is an ambitious work on both a conceptual and musical level. Once the band figures out how to harness the complex soundscapes they formulate, they are capable of brilliant albums. In the meantime, Aloha has made a glorious noise that is endlessly intriguing and very often inspired. © Stanton Swihart /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released October 19, 1999 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 12, 2004 | Polyvinyl Records

Aloha display their dazzlingly accessible post-rock grafting of jazz, prog-rock, spacy electronics, and pop on this superb five-song, 20-minute EP. The record has something of a live feel, giving the listener a quick snatch of what the actual Aloha experience is all about: by turns laconic, loose, taut, and electric; one moment diving into electronic expanses, the next offering up a sweet, lazy pop song, and then imploding into a phased, agitated jazz jam. In fact, the album was captured in two days (with an additional few days of overdubs and mixing), so the off-the-cuff energy is not simply a lucky by-product, but a true representation of the band. As could be expected, the instrumentation is ridiculously eclectic. On the basic instrumentation side, Tony Cavallario's rhythm guitar playing is infinitely textured and interesting, while Matthew Gengler's bass sounds bottomless and shows an unparalleled grasp of spatial depth; beneath their interplay, Cale Parks scatters atmospheric snare and cymbal beats in every direction, as if John Densmore were backing Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. Eric Koltnow is the linchpin of the band's complex mixture. He plays everything from piano and synthesizer to glockenspiel, but it's his vibe playing that's directly at the center of the Aloha sound. Vibes take over songs such as "Roanoke Born" and "Gary's Narrator," sending them into ethereal jazz territory. Equally important in all this, though, are Cavallario's lovely vocals. His voice sketches out what are, for all intents and purposes, relaxed pop melodies. To call Aloha a pop band, however, is misleading and too constrictive for their beautiful music. They end The Great Communicators with an electronically ominous instrumental, and it is that tension between their pretty (albeit idiosyncratic) pop inclinations and their complex, percussive instrumental attack that makes Aloha's music so immaculately evocative. © Stanton Swihart /TiVo