Progressive rock is a tricky wench of a genre. It’s difficult, ornery, complaining, inconclusive, impenetrable and sometimes wholeheartedly dissatisfying. But somehow, Midwestern indie-rock band Aloha (of Polyvinyl Records fame) manages to take the prog-rock genre and make it not quite so difficult for their fourth full-length album, Here Comes Everyone. Implementing a great mixture of jazz, pop and angular, distant rock allows Aloha to be versatile and surprisingly warm this time around-easily reducing the Aloha learning curve. However, even with the changes that Aloha bring to Here Comes Everyone in order to make it more accessible, it still isn’t the effortless listening you’d think it’d be. Many of the songs seem either to be offhandedly distracted and weightless or much too structured to be who we all know as the “real” Aloha. Live, Aloha’s sound is incredible: they make things up as they play, they yell, they sweat, they hit stuff with mallets, feverishly moving past the level of greatness in their albums.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t bouts of these great moments on Here Comes Everyone. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. “Summer Away” is a fantastic, driving, liquid rock force. It’s catchy and melodic and marimbas bounce on top of a fantastic guitar solo like it’s no big deal. Moments like this of natural, easy, effortless music appear along the road alongside the heavier, more obtuse moments. Yet, we can ignore the latter moments just because the wonderful parts of the album are worth wading through. “Water Your Hands” is eclectic, churning and eerie. The tone of the music flows perfectly over the gently warbled lyrics-“Light from the roadside memorials would guide you out of the mountains/Pull out the things in your wallet/If you should feel a connection to the name and the pictures/If you should feel a reaction, you have known love in your lifetime.” The majority of the album sounds like a slow, dizzying and epic walk toward some sort of home you’ll never quite reach-but at least wherever you are, you are there with your best friends. The rush of “All the Wars,” the lead track, aggressively attacks with sweet lyrics: “From the day you were called you’ve been walking through walls/Shot through a cannon, you’ve landed in a flowerbed/Guarded by invisible friends/Guarded and invisible.”
Other highlights on the album include the gentle lilt of “Perry Como Gold,” with just a bare piano in the background and a lean guitar. It’s not quite what you’d expect from Aloha, as it misses about three-quarters of the instruments they normally use, but it’s a pretty song nonetheless. Songs like “Perry Como Gold” and “Be Near” perfectly display the wandering sense of loss of being past the age of 18 in a modern world. All “Be Near” asks for is just that-to be closer, to connect- “Can we be near?/Hands across the table/Everything in pairs/On the run, we aim for the summits and the pinnacles/Please believe my sense of direction/We’re not home, but we’re not lost.” Perhaps, like the lyrics of “Be Near,” all Aloha wants by this more accessible album is to be closer to people, guarded by their invisible friends. Maybe all they want is simply somebody to understand them, past the prog-rock glory and the crazy time signatures, somewhere in between.