The Aldgate EP
* * * * 1/2
BEST IN THE WEST
After numerous amazing tentative titles (including Gangbang Amadeus Mozart and Throw Some Swag On That Swag), East Bay trio Local Hero finally decided to name their debut EP after a British pub in Tokyo and slap a vintage-looking image of a bunch of boats on the cover. If your first thought was Picture Atlantic, British Sea Power or other similarly maritime-enamored post-punk revivalists, we’re in the same boat here (pun semi-intended). The ship and title are nonetheless appropriate to the music here. Local Hero carry with them a certain globetrotting chic that is as highbrow as that of Vampire Weekend but considerably more whimsical and extroverted, as if the boys in the band actually spent some time traveling across the world rather than having it channeled to them through history classes and King Sunny Ade records. They sing about Barcelona daydreams, the great Northwest, and the Champs-Elysees, and there is something too big and bold about their sound to suggest that their worldly musings are the product of any sort of ennui or fantasy.
Yet this is hardly “world music.” The band’s influences come directly from the Anglophone indieverse—there are elements of Fleet Foxes’ reverb-drenched harmony folk, Destroyer’s obtuse, psychedelic lyrics, Girls’ repurposing of classic pop motifs, and the Afro-pop glory of Local Natives and Vampire Weekend. Yet all these different styles meet in the middle, firmly in pop territory with no pretentious avant-gardism or Pitchfork aspirations. In fact, it’s a ridiculously upbeat record. Mackay’s raspy, slurred voice sounds intoxicated from life rather than weed or alcohol, and his idiosyncratic, evocative lyrics glisten atop the major-key background like a sauce drizzled artfully on some fancy dish at a Parisian restaurant. Everything boils down to a summertime pop mélange that is sometimes sexy, often quirky, and always fun. It is a shame that The Aldgate was released at the very tail end of summer, as this would be the perfect album for a summer in the Bay Area—or anywhere else for that matter.