One of the most important pieces found in the foundation of music comes from the realm of blues. While there’s been a multitude of well known artists that have a massive impact on the genre, it’s one of those sounds that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. That has slowly been changing since the early 2000’s as the rise of the internet has brought blues back, giving it a culture following due to the advent of social media and outreach. Coupled with many larger artists utilizing elements of the genre (Cage the Elephant, Jack White and the Black Keys for example), it was only a matter of time for it to rise again. Enter Icelandic natives and one of the new faces of rock music, Kaleo. After garnering the world’s attention with their single “All the Pretty Girls”, the group signed to Atlantic Records in early 2015 and ever since then have been on a whirlwind journey. From relocating to Austin, TX, having a multitude of songs be featured on television and video game soundtracks and topping charts, there’s been nothing stopping the band. Now that their US debut album, A/B is here, how does it compare to former hopefuls of the blues world?
The album kicks off with their hit track “No Good”, which was featured in the recent HBO series Vinyl. The track is full of crushing riffs that accompany vocalist Jökull Júlíusson’s gritty voice to deliver a hard hitting blues rock song that Jack White wishes he would’ve written. The blues rock sound is in abundance throughout the album as heard in “Glass House” & “Hot Blood”, but the band doesn’t stop there. A/B also features songs that give off an incredibly old and soulful sounds, feeling as if they’re from an entirely different era. There’s also tracks like “All The Pretty Girls”, which are folk inspired songs highlighted by the heavy use of falsetto that compare highly to the likes of Bon Iver and “Automobile”, a fun country influenced track that gives off summer vibes. Not shying away from their roots, they’ve included a song representative of their native tongue in “Vor í vaglaskógi” which reminds people of where they’re from and where they’re going. Furthermore, they tap into a more somber sound with the smash hit, yet hauntingly beautiful track “Way Down We Go”, introspective and honest “Save Yourself” and the closing track “I Can’t Go On Without You”.
Being hailed as a hopeful to bring a sound and style to the mainstream undoubtedly brings such high expectations, and signing to a major label assuredly only raises those same expectations even higher. Where many would fail, Kaleo did not by creating a worldwide debut album that combines their background growing up with their newly found home in Austin that is known as the live music capital of the world. Blending the purity and soulfulness of blues rock with elements of folk and country, A/B delivers on the expectations for them. They’ve already brought the sound back with their chart topping singles and what will assuredly be a smash hit album, now all that’s left is for them to continue to do the thing they love most; making music.