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Kaleo - A/B (Review)

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

ICELANDIC four-piece Kaleo may just have delivered one of the blues-rock albums of the year with their rollicking latest, A/B.

Steeped in classic rock values (gritty vocals, sassy soul backing, crunching guitar riffs that veer between livewire and bluesy), this is jam-packed with memorable anthems in waiting, whether it’s the HBO Vinyl soundtrack highlight No Good or the atmospheric gem of former IndieLondon Single of the Week Way Down We Go.

But as evidenced by the change of pace between those two tracks, Kaleo can mix it up with ease. Another favourite, former single All The Pretty Girls, is a stripped back, acoustic ballad that finds ‎Jökull Júlíusson’s normally gruff delivery toned down for a fragile, falsetto delivery. It’s disarmingly beautiful, particularly early on when at its most stripped down. But it opens up midway through into something equally enchanting.

For those that don’t know, Kaleo have been best friends since attending elementary school in the small town of Mosfellsbaer outside of Reykjavik. Indeed, bandleader Júlíusson (JJ Julius Son), drummer David Antonsson Crivello and bassist Danny Jones began playing together at the age of 17.

Honing their skills, they played countless shows around the nation’s capital for a few years before adding guitarist Rubin Pollock to the mix in 2012. The name of the band, Kaleo, is Hawaiian for ‘the sound’.

Since 2012, they’ve been slowly building a reputation for themselves that has now stretched beyond their own borders. The exposure to No Good provided by Vinyl helped, as did Way We Go Down becoming the sound bed for the advertising campaign for the Boots No.7 2016 Campaign. But the quality of the songs screams out to be heard.

And it’s not just the singles so far that standout. This is an album that maintains a consistent quality throughout.

Broken Bones is a blues-rock masterpiece complete with lyrical nods to the Devil, a chain-gang vibe and gospel-tinged backing; Automobile has that laidback, easy-going breezy vibe more commonly associated with a Jack Johnson record and is a road-trip inspiring delight (right down to the guitar solo and carefree whistling), while Save Yourself has another of those country-rock acoustic vibes that slow-builds in genuinely endearing fashion. Album closer I Can’t Go On Without You rounds things off in style, too, with a six-minute plus slow-builder that underlines their ear for a song that embodies classic big band elements. These guys are destined to fill stadiums.

And that’s not even forgetting to properly mention the singles. No Good is a belter of an opener, with some fantastically hard-rock, sweat and booze drenched riffs and a hedonistic sense of revelry. While Way Down We Go is a moody slow-builder that builds to some epic highs, tipping its hat to Brothers in Arms-era Dire Straits during the guitar solo and also drawing on some classic Rolling Stones harmonising.

In short, this is a classic collection of songs.

Download picks: No Good, Way Down We Go, Broken Bones, All The Pretty Girls, Automobile

Track listing:

  1. No Good
  2. Way Down We Go
  3. Broken Bones
  4. Glass House
  5. Hot Blood
  6. All The Pretty Girls
  7. Automobile
  8. Vor i Vaglaskogi
  9. Save Yourself
  10. I Can’t Go On Without You