Last week, we were lucky enough to première the title track from Pittsburgh’s Arlo Aldo’s House & Home, a post in which we described how the band “[draw] upon the American landscape and the people who live upon it to create tales full of love and loss”. It seems this duality of life and death are important to the act. Indeed, the name Arlo Aldo is quite literally forged from it. Arlo was the name lead David Manchester wanted to give his son (though it never came to pass), while Aldo is a nod to Aldo Rossi, an Italian architect who designed a rather spectacular cemetery. This might at first seem like little more than clever juxtaposition, but the album suggests a new line of thought, one which may or may-not be radical depending on how much you are prepared think about these things. How would we experience loss without love? How could life be wonderful without death? Maybe the good and the bad are so tightly entwined that it’s impossible to have one without the other. As Bob Ross would say, “you need the dark in order to show the light”.
The album opens with ‘I (Isabelle)’, a short but intense vocal prologue, before ‘Addi’ unfolds, its twangy Americana sound and layered vocals threatening towards some crescendo that never quite arrives. Jessie Hoffman’s viola gives ‘Civil War Bride’ a quaint, wistful feel, telling of a grieving wife trying to place her loss within the legends of history, and ‘House & Home’ is similarly consumed by lost love, another trauma so great it came to define the narrator’s life. Here we find them asking questions into the dark, voicing small hopes and praying for mercy, taking refuge in things bigger than themselves.
“O’er the mountains out past the trees
where the grasslands, meet the sky
you’ll find me singin’ my songs
with my lover in my mind”
‘Wolves’ is a dark and slow-burning war song, violence creeping forward with an ominous energy like some far off thunderhead, like drums in the hills, while ‘Portraits’ is born of the kind of bright white hope only a desperate man could conjure, the threat of departure jolting words from his mouth. His goals are possibly more romantic and idealistic than practical, with even the character himself seeming unsure whether he’s pleading or praying or painting a picture of the past for prosperity’s sake. ‘Wake Up’ is probably the most uptempo track on the record, a song of sparkling kinship against the grey which skips along with gusto between the mournful chorus. The closing lines dream of company, of loyalty, of glorious connection to insulate against the dark. “If I hold your hand take a stand,” Manchester sings. “And we’ll both go down together.”
‘Signs’ tells of a love unacknowledged and unsure, a relationship loaded on one side and all too aware of time ticking by, while ‘Sleep’ is a delicate, heartbreaking track in which grief is tempered by imagined beauty and peace (“Sleep, my little one / Sleep ‘till the moon is done / And the ghosts up in the sky / they dance to all your baby cries”). Closer ‘Sway to Swing’ is another slow-burning epic, again sad and tender and full of sincere details. Here we find death approaching, as is its way, the characters reacting strongly, vibrantly, burning with life to spite the shadow.
“So hold strong
I’ll wade this river with you all night long
just to keep you (me) moving along
till we find the end of your song
They’re only some words
for a song that don’t know all the chords
but the harmonies
will carry you to the end”
The record closes out with the same powerful harmony with which it began, so that the end is in fact no end at all. Second time around ‘Addi’ feels miraculous rather than ominous, the fact that the crescendo never arrives rendered joyous. But even the songs set after the climax are imbued with a sense of wonder, every grieving thought still bemused and amazed that we are ever alive at all. The fact is, hypothetical baby Arlo and death-centric Aldo are really two ends of the same string, a cord which Manchester and Co. have spun into forms so complex you can no longer decipher where it begins and ends. Here every love story is a ghost story, every loss a concentration of life.
You can buy House & Home now from Future Oak Record Co., including a vinyl run limited to 300. As we stated in our preview, there’s a release show tomorrow (27th February) at Commonwealth Press Warehouse with special guests Mariage Blanc, a DJ set by tOTAL TRASH and on-site t-shirt printing. You can find all the details here,