Together with Ten Grand (formerly The Vida Blue) and the Speed of Sauce, Alto Heceta have recently brough recognition back to the small college town of Iowa City. [Back?, you ask. Check out Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 and Multiple Cat both with Iowa City roots]. While Ten Grand tears it up punk rock style, Alto Heceta (pronounced “huh-see-tuh”) brings its brand of “soaring rock” to new levels on their latest full-length, This Distance, This Weekend, which proves in many respects to be bounds beyond their previous work (see the allmusic review of AH’s last release, a split EP with the Speed of Sauce). Alto Heceta, who has performed with the likes of Rainer Maria, Cursive, Jets to Brazil, Joan of Arc, and most recently, Karate, now takes a measurable step out of the long shadow cast by emo rock in the Midwest. Though vestiges of emo are scattered throughout the album, This Distance, This Weekend is decidedly a rock album filled with gorgeous walls of guitar, impeccable drumming, as well as alternating vocalists that have matured considerably since their first EP.
John Svec (who has worked with House of Large Sizes and the aforementioned Multiple Cat) has done a masterful job recording this album, having extracted a certain richness in the guitar/bass work and highlighted Matt Heideman’s drumming, while not overshadowing the vocalists. This Distance, This Weekend opens up with a glistening, though ephemeral, instrumental number, The Walk Home, that foreshadows the textured guitars prevalent throughout the twelve songs. Like most songs on this album, My Shrinking Paradise (download MP3) shirks conventional verse/chorus song structure, opting for a distinctly linear approach. This track, the last minute of which evokes post-comeback Sunny Day Real Estate, sets the stage for the album’s best songs. Pull Out All the Stops is an early eye-opener with its punchy riffs that boast shoegazer-esque thickness and are sprinkled with some of singer Dino Balocchi’s best lyrics. The alternating mellow/hard pattern reveals the band’s emo roots on the next track, We Dig Silence, an emo cliche that is forgiven in light of the song’s climax featuring one of the catchiest guitar lines on the album.
Never Walk Home Alone (you best download here), features a crisp intro guitar melody paired with Balocchi’s superlative (sometimes backwards) delayed volume swells that truly establish this track as not only the best track on the album, but also a watershed song in the context of the band’s oeuvre. Never before has Alto Heceta experimented so outwardly with its instrumentation, and never before has it sounded this good. In addition, Never Walk Home Alone, featuring alternate vocalist, Adam Penly, matches the instrumental success wth creative lyricism: “Plants hang heavy under early dew, and that sticky sweat that clings to your neck is probably just the world forming ’round you. The loose-lipped politic (tick-tock) happened an hour ago. Friends look funny under real light.” Stated simply, this track stands as the apex of a solid album.
The second half of the album is equally as potent launching with Moderation, another heavy-hitting, gain-friendly rock number with an infectious chorus. Picture Being There demonstrates Balocchi’s often Yorke-ish vocals and enjoys an enticing Tim Borkowsky bassline and a sleepy Fender Rhodes. Overall, Picture is another example of AH’s resemblance to SDRE in the right way. But the latter half’s best track is For Everything Left Unsaid, which stands as Balocchi’s finest recorded performance as an AH vocalist. The album closes with two laid-back tracks, a winding-down of sorts: When Autumn Leaves with its mellow intro that mounts to a moving crescendo, and A Head Start, both of which feature instrumental depth with the addition of subtle keyboards.
Together with Appleseed Cast (only the latest double LP) and others, This Distance, This Weekend seems to mark the pendulum swing back toward rock and away from the ebbing genre of emo, by infusing more creativity in song structure, song dynamic (namely, the peaks in intensity), and instrumentation into their work. Check out Stylus Magazine’s review of This Distance, This Weekend and other local reviews, but make sure that Never Walk Home Alone is on your next mix tape. You can purchase this record at CD Baby.Powered by Sidelines