Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Avalanche City's gleeful, emotive pop songs create happiness in a nigh-on-perfect album

February 4, 2011

Sometimes when I meet someone, I get this feeling that I’m going to know them for a really long time. It’s rare, but it’s also rarely wrong. I experience this feeling with music as well; it’s incredibly unusual, but it does happen. I had one of those moments of intense clarity upon first listen to Avalanche City‘s Our New Life Above the Ground. From the first few seconds of the first song, I was hooked.

And by hooked, I mean I couldn’t go to sleep that night until I had posted it to my girlfriend’s Facebook wall. I literally couldn’t rest until I had told someone about the magnificence of this album. Let the gushing begin.

The album is a debut, first of all. It falls neatly between Guster’s latest and Mumford and Sons’ only, in that it’s chock full of classic pop songwriting arranged beautifully as well as stuffed full of swooning romanticism that teeters on the edge of saccharine but never goes over. These songs have the epic bent from M&S removed, as well as the seriousness that Guster can fall into pulled out. These twelve humble songs were conceived and performed with barely-contained glee that boils over in all sorts of ways.

Whether it’s stomping and clapping, group singalongs, perky guitar strum (oh so much of that going on), cheery mandolin, tom-heavy drumbeats (you know the type) or any other number of upbeat maneuvers, Avalanche City makes sure that you know he’s having a blast. But it’s not a sugar rush; on the contrary, it’s the type of revelatory happiness that accompanies a soul a peace, bursting at the seams with its fullness.

And the soul is something discussed often here. AC sticks to generally universal language; terms like soul, freedom, love, sadness, adventure, dream, you and me appear frequently. “So long captivity, for me,” he declares at the end of “Ends in the Ocean,” and the whole rest of the album (save for “Love Don’t Leave”) proves that, indeed, that’s what he did.

“Oh Life” is a wide-eyed wonder of a track, marveling at everything in just over a minute. “You and I” is the most charming love song I’ve heard this year, claiming, “If you found your toothpaste empty, I would squeeze out just a little more/if you had the sweetest victory, I’d high-five you till our hands were sore.” He goes on, and each line is better than the last. There’s also copious amounts of clapping and tom rolls, which are totally wonderful. “Love Love Love,” which is not a cover of the Mountain Goats tune, is the anthem that kicks the whole shebang off, and it’s a heck of a way to do it.

Each and every song here is memorable; each and every one is worth noting. As a full album, it’s nigh on perfect. There are fast songs, slow songs, midtempo songs, anthems, musings, pop songs, and everything else. There’s even instrumental solos, if you’re into that. I mean, this has it all. And, best of all, you will leave wanting to go hug someone (preferably a significant other) with a huge smile on your face.

Avalanche City’s Our New Life Above the Ground is an album that transcends genre boundaries and appeals directly to souls that love living (or want to). The songs are affectionately written, perfectly arranged and brilliantly performed. This was released in ’10, and it’s the last album of 2010 that I’m reviewing. It’s best to end on a high note, after all.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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