Friday, March 18, 2016

My Favourite Album: That's Your Fire by Aloha (Guest Post)

Today's guest is Ben Gallivan (@Benlikesmusic), who's here to tell you all about his favourite album and how he discovered it. Take it away, Ben...

It's often the case that you come across some of the best music entirely by accident. My accident took place in the Music & Video Exchange in Notting Hill in 2001. I'd been pestered by friends to go and check out the various incarnations of the store, and so - armed with around £100 - I planned a day of wandering around, digging in crates, and flicking through the CD racks.

I ended up seemingly disappointed, clutching a sole CD entitled ReDirection - a sampler from Polyvinyl Records - on the tube journey back home to Putney Bridge. After a couple of listens, however, I had parted with the remainder of the wad I'd taken out shopping via the Polyvinyl site. Albums from artists such as Rainer Maria, The Ivory Coast, and American Football were all purchased, as well as Aloha's That’s Your Fire - my favourite album of all time.

The two Aloha tracks on that sampler were a real game of two halves. A Hundred Stories was breathtaking; a crazy hybrid of pop, jazz and college rock crammed into three minutes. I'd never heard anything like it before.

Warsaw, on the other hand, was much harder work, but I took the punt and added the album to my basket regardless.

When the package from Polyvinyl arrived, That's Your Fire was the first one on the CD player and that's more or less where it remained for the next couple of years. More than fifteen years have now passed since its release, and it still gets an airing, in full, at least once a week.

That's Your Fire may be the album (and Polyvinyl the label) that brought out the music snob in me. I was 23 years old in 2001, and that record label pretty much stuck with me throughout the rest of my twenties. Polyvinyl ended up being my go-to online store for years, especially once they added the likes of Asobi Seksu, Of Montreal, and Mates Of State to their roster.

The first half-dozen tracks on That's Your Fire effortlessly merge together to create a masterpiece of a Side 1. There is no faulting the instrumentation (including Eric Koltnow's vibraphone, much missed on their later albums), and despite some criticism in reviews of the record, Tony Cavallario's vocals being pushed a little to the background actually does the album some favours (no offence meant, Tony). It's lyrically brilliant as well - despite the quiet vocals, you can still make out some of the touching words that make up those first few lovelorn tracks.

A rest is required after the thrashy ending of the aforementioned A Hundred Stories, and this much-needed respite comes with Side 2’s opener, the eight-minute-plus Heading East.

It's a misfortune that I've never seen Aloha play this, or any other song, live. In fact, they've never played in the UK, but if they ever do, I will likely refuse to leave until I heard Heading East.

The poppiest song on the record - if you can call it that - is With The Lights Out, We Sing. It's also the weakest, but 'weak' in this context is something of a misnomer.

I've prattled on for 500+ words now, but it won’t make any sense unless you listen to the album and hear all this for yourself. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I don't expect anyone to love this record with the same passion as I do, but I would urge anyone with a love of beautifully-crafted, wonderfully-written songs to give it a go. I will happily send you a copy. Go to it.

Would you like to write about your favourite album for The Album Wall? Email your pitch to!

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