New Music: Altadore – Bar Lights

It feels like a long time since Winter 2012’s ‘Golden Hills’, but it has been worth the wait: ‘Bar Lights’ is one hell of a start to 2015 for Altadore. 

You all know EXACTLY what it’s like. You’ve found a band that you love to pieces, you’ve metaphorically worn away the grooves on the vinyl listening to that treasured album over and over, you hope fervently for new music, and then it arrives. It’s a struggle to press play. You don’t want to be let down. You want the music to knock your socks off from the first.

And then it does.

‘Bar Lights’ jangles into life, drums and guitars pound and ring out and then a brief moment of silence drops before fuzzed-up, brooding bass introduces us to naked, vulnerable vocals, echoing scratchily into the melancholy winter air.

You can check out a clip here before you go and buy it.

Portland, Oregon’s Altadore are made up of David Katz (vocals and guitar), Gabe Mouer (also Light Club, guitars and vocals), Matthew Hall (ex of Genders and Paper Brain, bass) and Zach Wilder (drums).  Even though ‘Golden Hills’ was a fantastic record, ‘Bar Lights’ feels like a real step forward for the band, and not just in terms of building on their previous, more reflective sound. After all, ‘Golden Hills’ rocked, especially on ‘Where You Go’ and ‘Moments’, but the new single finds Altadore upping the tempo and the volume.

‘Bar Lights’ feels like a less autobiographical song than previous efforts, perhaps emphasised by Katz’s delivery which is much more understated, less keening than before.  Indeed, it verges on the deadpan at times, but repeated listens give the lie to that – the click at the end of “heartache”, the catch in the voice as he closes out “darkness” – and he always knows the right time to inflect a little, or descend a note or two further. After a while you find yourself listening out feverishly for those delicious moments.

It seems to me that Gabe Mouer has continued to develop his playing style in the same vein as in his Light Club release last autumn; fluid, mellifluous guitar lines slip and slide beautifully under the verse, playing with and around the melody. If anything those lines work more magic here, placed in contrast with the hirsute bass that gives this record much of its punch. It may be that Mouer tops that with the soaring outro (which could only have been bettered if, on the last bars of the solo, it had sped up, thrown in some more notes, but then I’m being greedy…).

Speaking to us last week David described the moment when those two elements were put in place:

“I remember the first time I showed the guys, it was Matthew’s second or third practice with us, and the fuzzed out bass line in the verse was his first original contribution to Altadore. I was pretty blown away. And shortly after, Gabe threw in the lead guitar hook at the end. A sonic 1-2 for me personally.”

The instrumentation for ‘Bar Lights’ was tracked entirely live with the exception of a little guitar and tambourine added later, and vocals recorded the next day.  It’s one of five tracks laid down on 10 and 11 May last year, produced by David and Gabe, and recorded by Tim Shrout at Marmoset in Portland (mixing by ‘Golden Hills’ Jeff Bond and mastering by Rob Dennler).

You can expect ‘Bar Lights’ to be available through Altadore’s bandcamp site as well as through itunes and yer usual streaming services. Release date of 13 January 2015, with the full EP (title ‘Wandering Ghost’) to follow later this Winter/Spring.


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