On Our Side debuts the talents of Santa Barbara, California-based ERLAND by delivering 12 tracks of lush folk-rock. Perhaps that's a bit unfair because while the album is rooted in folk sounds, there is a fair bit of genre-hopping going on in the music. Released earlier this year, the reception has been favorable, even drawing comparisons to Wilco and The Lumineers (justified, I should add). The album is also noteworthy for its origins: recorded independently and fan-funded, On Our Side also demonstrates the power, financial and emotional, of the fan base to make both the musicians' and the audience's dream come true.
There are two radio-ready singles here. "Don't Go Dying" melds Bob Dylan melancholy with similar compositions to early Franz Ferdinand (listen for the guitar work in the chorus). "Ain't Worth the Fight," with its infectious hook of "Losing you, but won't lose sleep tonight / It ain't worth the fight," betrays the band's California origins with surfy guitar in the background of striking, mid-tempo drumming. The rest of the album travels to varied territory, like the loner-folk that comprises the dreary "All I've Got" and the howling electric guitar work on "Working for Free." Perhaps the album doesn't break any new ground, but it doesn't need to. ERLAND, despite this being their first album, play with the collective cool of folk-rock veterans.
Other songs still follow the folk format. "Darlin' Dear" features shuffling percussion over simple guitar chords and the soft-spoken "Don't Cry for Me" ends the album in a surprising twist: repetitious organ notes that reflect the frustration in the voice. "There's no point wasting tears on someone living life this recklessly," and yet the music is anything but reckless.
There is a strong sense of alternative rock sensibilities mixed in throughout this album of primarily folk-music emulation. You can hear it in the guitar work, which has more ambition that strictly acoustic Americana can handle. It's in the barely restrained vocals and in the interplay between band mates. It looks like ERLAND is here to stay. If they can pull off an album like this on barely a dime, I'd love to hear what they produce when they have more to experiment with.
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