Fancy something a little different? Perhaps you're a bit metalled out but the likes of Yes and the Mumfords are a bit too far the other way, yes? Or maybe you are looking for something with a bit of a southern thing going on to satisfy your cravings. Well, here's a little outfit that just might prove the perfect solution to your needs.
Alberta Cross is an Anglo/Swedish duo, Peter Ericson Stakee and Terry Wolfers, who now dwell in the USA. Over the last two or three years they have been creating quite a stir with their brand of southern tinged melancholia.
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The band's debut, 'The Broken Side Of Time', has quite a strident, heavy groove. On the other hand 'Songs Of Patience', their second full album, is a lighter affair, not quite picking up where the other left off.
Their sound is a folk rock hybrid that uses the melancholy of mellatron driven progressive Americana and a nice big molasses thick production to allow the music to swirl and flow like the gentle breeze on a warm summers evening. There is also a touch of occasional industrial electronica that gives the sound a desolate quality at times, on 'Wait' for instance.
'Songs Of Patience' is not an easy listen. The vocals hover at a height where they are sometimes forced to strain a little, giving the album a strident feel and the music flip flops between a keyboard heavy gloop, a lighter, airier jangle and a Neil Young like acoustic. The overall feel is quite unsettling and perseverance needs to be applied to appreciate what is on here.
It is a contemplative, rather deep and heavy album that is almost impossible to penetrate on first listen. 'Songs Of Patience' rarely shifts beyond third gear and it is not until the sunnier 'Wasteland' that the load is lightened a little. You will find that the full reflective nature of this album will only be appreciated through repeated listens; via a familiarity that comes with time and patience (hence, perhaps, the aptness of the title).
The album is a little disjointed which is probably attributable to the bands mobility during the recording sessions, 'Songs Of Patience' having been recorded in eight different studios from Hollywood and Burbank to New York and Charlottesville. Though it could be argued the inconsistency perhaps saves the album from becoming samey.
The album mixes swathes of old fashioned keyboards with heavy guitars dressed with hints of Petty's jangling Rickenbacker Americana and a smattering of back country folk music. It's a heavy listen that does not need to be loud that sometimes veers a little too close to the melancholia of Cold Play's housewife friendly ambience.
Killer tracks come in the shape of 'Ophelia On My Mind' with its swathes of mellatron and the gloriously elegant 'Lay Down'. The jiggy hook of 'Come On Maker' has a big thick groove that oozes drama and 'Money For The Weekend (Pocket Full Of Shame)' has a grunt that U2 sadly misses these days.
Some have compared Alberta Cross to My Morning Jacket and The Band but this album has too much of a lonely dustbowl feel to it for that comparison to work. It has a hot dry sound that is parched, lonely and stark.
The album seems to gently fade a little towards the end. 'Life Without Warning' and 'Bonfires' gently letting the album roll to a gentle halt like a slowing train coming into a siding.
The two bonus tracks act to bulk the album out to its 50 plus minutes admirably. 'Rambling Home' does just that with its emphasis on a big bass drum and 'Wait' is a lonely plaintive cry in the desert.
'Songs Of Patience' is a very skilfully constructed album. With no obvious singles it taps into a vein of obscure popularity that will, I'm sure, lead to the sort admiration that borders on a religious fervour.
Alberta Cross has produced and is producing some great stuff, as they have here but the band has not quite got it right. There is a certain something missing that once found will fling them from the relative obscurity in which they currently languish to the heady heights of arena stardom.
The songs suggest that the Alberta boys are still refining their art but given time I'm sure everyone will be aware of Alberta Cross.