Hailing from Salem, Oregon, Allies From Nowhere is an alt-rock/indie rock band that touches on some heavy subjects: addiction, mental illness, death and how to cope. As they put it: “a band that leans heavily on big sounds and big emotions.” With their full and overflowing sound, they can pull the listener up into the highs and push them down into the lows in a way that stirs up your emotions and sets them straight.
“Wolves in My Head” and “Dragonfly” are two uplifting tracks that capture the group doing what it does best. Singers/songwriters/producers Ben Thede and Ronan Baker keep it simple, the background vocals and guitar leads blending perfectly to give a feel of a fullness and completeness. The sounds swirl and crash, the vocals sometimes harsh and other times soft, but it works. The big sweeping sounds and the wailing solos that hover above it all combine to deliver a couple of fun and moving songs.
On some tracks, however, a ‘less is more’ approach would deliver more impact. “Heavier Than Heaven” is one such example. It’s always difficult to have an audience buy into your authenticity with lengthy hyper-emotional ballads, and sometimes their goal of “big sounds and big emotions” can lead them astray. Between the soft piano and singing what could be the title of the next Coldplay album, they get stuck trying to force their own style of rock. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a step backwards from where their other songs have taken them. T
he same can be said for tracks like “I am the Water” and “Electric Church” where the build up of chords and emotion ends up a wall of noise and the message of the song is never received. When a band tackles the sorts of subjects that songwriters Thede and Baker do, however, especially in songs that can verge on the eight-minute mark, there is bound to be some parts that miss the mark.
“Path of the Sun” is where Allies From Nowhere really finds where their sweet spot again. The build-up is a gradual instrumental section, and the chorus and vocals are simple, powerful and incredibly catchy. This is a song for the bar, and one that will get your feet tapping. The last six songs of the album, in fact, are where the band feels and sounds most at home. They are intended to be listened to as one song in six movements; a bold project. “No Country Pt. 1” and “Undrugged” are heartfelt songs that are as engaging and fun as they are sincere.
Instrumentally, despite getting a bit carried away at times, Thede and Baker know how to make big songs packed with feeling. When it works they hit just the right note with the right emphasis to drive home the lyrics, and when the band gets going with their power chords and free-spirited guitar solos they feel a bit like a more mature version of Diarrhea Planet (less about the beer pong and back flips into the pool and more about the struggles of life). The themes and riffs also bring to mind indie rock outfit The Sidekicks, Canadian alt-rock band The Weakerthans or Built to Spill - a band that they credit as having a large influence on them. Allies From Nowhere is a band to keep an eye on. When they get it right they can really nail it with the kind of power and feeling that would make for an awesome live show.
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