XVIX. "Aloha to the Heart Songs; Aloha to the Art Songs"
A-LO-ha. Alo-HA. Aloha.
Have you ever read Lolita? (I am asking you). It begins something like that. "Aloha. Aloha. Aloha."
There is a band from the Midwest, from all over the Midwest, called Aloha. I revel in their strums.
I step off the L-train. I walk three blocks through Williamsburg wet streets. Humid, sticky night. Neon signs like buzzing bug catchers. I remember watching them zap — ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! — the life out of mosquitoes at Clear Lake when I was a little boy.
Lights! Now buzzing, nowrednowgreen, and in the shapes of cigarette icons and beer brands instead of that incessant, hissy, blue-purple tube. Die, bug, die, I say, remembering the Lake, and my grandparents house, and my grandfather's shaky hands shaking mine.
Aloha. Aloha. Aloha.
Goodbye and hello at the same time. We all know the meanings of the Hawaiian language in turn, and in part.
At the Northsix in Brooklyn, the most under-rated band in the world — in MY world, at least — is playing tonight. Aloha. Aloha. Aloha.
Aloha is a four piece, featuring guitar, drums, organ, piano, synthesizer, various percussives (including xylophone), and at one point in their career, a vibraphone.
A vibraphone is an obese, electric xylophone. A pedal steel for elementary school children.
"Water your hands like a flower," the singer sings, and I listen, and I think that this is why I love this band, and this is why they are not famous. Aloha is an amazing band, both musically and lyrically, with fluorescent sounds of jazz—infused progressive rock and watercolor, ambiguous lyrics about love and velvet adventures. They exist on just the far side of accessibility, where one must actually listen and participate in music to experience.
And that is what seeing Aloha live is, it is an experience. Their music, seeing it performed live, is like a watercolor painting being burned, or, more simply, just goddamned beautiful. I saw them for the first time my freshman year of college, over four years ago, in a small club in Richmond. They were one of the three opening bands for the then quickly — ascending group, The Liars.
I was blown away by the 45-minute set, in which the band never stopped playing, and, I believe, made it through only four or five songs off the then newly-released record, "That's Your Fire." I remember the track, "A Hundred Stories," requested by myself, played live, made me think that I was seeing The Doors or Led Zeppelin, before they became legends. (download "A Hundred Stories" below)
Two records and a seven-inch later, Aloha's latest record, "Here Comes Everyone" was ranked by a reviewer in Virginia (okay, it was me) as the best record of 2004, and was also aligned next to Pinback on CNN's website as one of the best records you didn't hear of that year.
Sitting and dancing and sitting and standing in a half-full Northsix club in Brooklyn, I sang along to the songs — "Say hello to the monster in your home / that rolls around when he thinks that he's alone" (from "You've Escaped") and "Climbed up to the rooftop / You're in the form of a raindrop / Take my antedote to the people below" (from "Boys in the Bathtub). Two songs, which were new and I, a SUPER NERD! of a fan, had never heard before, were neither good nor bad, simply mysterious. Not knowing the intricacies of the recordings, not knowing how to expect them to be played, (I've seen Aloha many times), I didn't know what to expect, what to think, how to feel. In fact, I felt nothing but numb. I remember the songs perfectly.
On some songs, the drummer plays keyboards and also drums. On another song, the lead singer sings and plays guitar while tapping a highhat with his foot because the drummer is busy playing organ. Aloha believes in making the most noise they can.
Aloha is a screaming five-year-old with the voice of Natalie Wood. Buy their records and make love to sound.
Download the great track "Summer Away" off "Here Comes Everyone" from Polyvinyl records here.
Download "A Hundred Stories" here.