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CD Review: Animal Liberation Orchestra – Fly Between Falls

Fly Between Falls is being re-released on Brushfire Records, the label of the Animal Liberation Orchestra’s fellow UC Santa Barbara alum Jack Johnson. The track order has been altered, and two tracks have been reworked: the sexy, soulful, “Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down”, which finds Johnson providing back-up vocals, and “BBQ”, whose lyrics are as uplifting as its music is upbeat. “Walls of Jericho” is a new song that replaces “Possibly Drown”.

The album opens with “Spectrum”, a playful yet contemplative song. The music begins with just a guitar and bongos, and after one verse and chorus, a mouth harp joins in. Alongside the banjo and accordion, it is almost impossible to hear the mouth harp and not be put into a good mood. The lyrics explore the complex simplicity, or maybe that’s the simple complexity, of changing one’s mind without understanding why. “Well, I can disagree with myself / because sometimes I feel like me / and sometimes I feel like somebody else.” I know I have changed from not caring about something to it immediately becoming very important. “One minute / I’m over it / and the next minute / I feel the opposite.”

Next is the tribute to college life on “Wasting Time (Isla Vista Song)”. The laid-back sound of a lap steel pedal guitar perfectly captures living in a beach town and the lyrics are hysterical, with the references to recklessly getting high and drunk that mark the early 20s. A few of my favorite lines include: “They just got a sack weighing 3 point 5./It was 4:19. Just about that time.”; “I saw crazy Bruce. He was waiting for / someone to buy him some fine malt liquor. / When he gets it in his system, / he’s a real shit-kicker.”; and “Somebody stuck a doob in my hand./Well, I took a hit and passed it on./I woke up on the pavement not before too long.” Of course, some will find the song irresponsible, but those buzz-killers never got invited to the cool parties, so what do they know?

“BBQ” is an inspiring song that makes it clear that trying something and not succeeding doesn’t equate to failing because life always has many “dangling possibilities” to offer, so at this “BBQ”, “we roast all the dreams that never came true /…pig out and dream anew.” “Walls of Jericho” follows with a similar perspective as the narrator exclaims, “I know every thing will be all right. / My time’s coming, but it’s not tonight” and that’s all right. The accompanying music is very happy and enthusiastic.

The album slows down as they change it up on the Latin-flavored soul of “Pobrecito”, a lesson about the evils of jealousy and how it can destroy relationships because “it’s a poison from the brain to the heart.” “Shapeshifter” starts off with a lovely piano intro before the song gets funky. It has a great musical bridge in the center that winds and changes like the song’s supple narrator, who constantly changes as he finds himself in different situations.

The album closes with birth, death and rebirth. “Waiting for Jaden” is the story of keyboardist Zach’s daughter’s birth. It has an up-tempo western swing feel as the brushes play the drums. It’s a heart-warming song, which will probably speak more to parents while cool hipsters will scoff at its sentimentality. “Fly” is very thoughtful examination of death that makes its inevitability not something to fear, but an exciting new chapter to experience. It’s not you leaving the world, but the world leaving you. The music sounds ethereal and captures the mood once again. This one definitely goes on my funeral tape.

ALO is a very talented quartet. Their songs are similar in that they are well crafted and the music perfectly evokes the mood, yet they don’t sound the same. The album’s title sums up the theme of all the songs in the collection. The twists and turns along life’s journey is what the journey is about, and “Fly Between Falls” is a perfect soundtrack for the trip no matter where you are headed.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS