Review – “Altona” EP – Altona

altonareviewed by Chris Matei

Vancouver-area alternative/indie rock four piece Altona have been working hard on the local circuit since the release of their single “Old Trees” in 2014, and their self-titled EP (released May 25th, available on iTunes and Bandcamp as well as in physical copy on Big Smoke Records) distills that work ethic down to a forceful, ambitious quartet of songs.

The album blends dense, precise guitars, driving drums and a raw, expressive vocal style (reminiscent at times of Tokyo Police Club’s David Monks) with a lyrical eye for the authenticity and unfettered emotion of youth – as well as the imminence of its passing. Case in point: on opener “Marine,” frontman Adam Sharp asks to be taken “back to a time like two thousand and nine, when was golden and electric and glowing and I was content with not knowing.”

Altona was recorded in Vancouver’s Granville Chapel, and the location leaves its mark. There’s a close-knit, full-band-in-the-room vitality to the tracks; a sense of height and hazy space surrounds the drums and guitars washed in edge-of-breakup drive. These elements shine on “Apologia,” which starts out as a rumbling exercise that pairs toothy rhythm guitars and tight bass groove with clear, sunlit leads: the song takes off into an euphoric chorus lift that helps it stand out.

“Favourite Books” shows off rich, sweet guitar layers and bright gold cymbal washes, coming together in a blast of 90s-indebted Pacific Coast alternative rock homage, and “Sides” is a taut, rain-beaten travelogue, driven by the larger-than-life sound of deeply rolling tom fills and cracking snare. The album, mixed by Justice McLellan (himself half of Vancouver’s dreamy-anxious ambient rockers Mesa Luna) and mastered by Brock McFarlane, combines the sonic warmth and punch of hard-driven analog with the hooks and energy of the band’s pop-indebted arranging and songwriting.

Altona are taking this self-titled disc with them on a tour of BC, Saskatchewan and Alberta that extends into June. Their self-titled disc shows both the solid work they have put in to get to this point as a band, and also the potential for further development and sonic expansion down the road.

Top Tracks: “Apologia,” “Favourite Books”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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