Today’s saturated mainstream and alternative music scenes demand a lot from bands like Ivan and Alyosha, whose honeyed, California-meets-Nashville style of folk-pop must compete with a throng of other widely-appealing bands in indie music before reaching the masses. The Seattle foursome is already worth a pretty penny though, as their music is more than merely pleasing to the ear. On All The Times We Had, at least half of the 11 tracks have been written and recorded to be emotionally affecting, lyrically compelling, and melodically dazzling. Well-chosen instruments and classic melodies form a sturdy foundation, while their songwriting exhibits a craftsmanship that is key in setting them apart.
Lyrically, All The Times We Had tends to linger near that uplifting via motivational song territory dominated by The Avett Brothers and Brandi Carlile. Listen to “The Fold” or “Don’t Wanna Die Anymore” to summarize the introspective attitude of this album. Themes include perseverance, climbing mountains, parenting, etc., although at times, they do wander into Cupid’s playground on songs like the title track.
The reflective Aimee Mann collaboration is guided by Mann and Tim Wilson’s lithesome vocals, gliding along as naturally as a Roy Orbison/K.D. Lang duet, which isn’t surprising, considering Wilson tends to sound like a tame Orbison or a twangy Bono. As a parallel, acoustic instruments and occasional cranked up guitar distortion and reverb add a grittiness to the sunny wall of sound on songs like “On My Way,” and “Be Your Man”. This depth is also due in part to the background vocals. Their soaring, group harmonies are one of the album’s strengths, lying somewhere between Fleet Foxes’ Medieval choristers and Mumford & Sons’ fiery ensemble of Englishmen. Musically, they enliven their songs with a nuanced blending of color that ultimately refines the entire sound.
Essential Tracks: “All the Times We Had”, “On My Way”, and “Be Your Man”