Ivan and Alyosha have arrived. From my first experience with their Cabin Sessions, it’s clear they were on the road to success, but this new album All the Times We Had has arrived at a great location. From incredible vocal harmonies to interesting lyrics, this album is an awesome listen top to bottom. There’s a consistent spiritual theme throughout. There’s no obvious “conclusion” or argumentative point, but rather an evident spiritual struggle or quandary; one that, I might add, makes for useful musings and that complements the sonic character of the album as well.
“Fathers Be Kind” was a track that had been released on the band’s YouTube (as were a few others on the album). It resonates with a classic feel. It has a sort of Beatles vibe to it. But what’s incredible about Ivan and Alyosha is that they have an ability to do what the Beatles made famous (harmonies and popular songwriting) with a 21st century recording technology that captures their work in ways that the 1960s simply could not. Suffice it to say they’ve learned from their elders and applied that songwriting brilliance to their own work. Nothing more than the chorus to “Fathers” is needed to prove this point.
“Easy to Love” has an even pacing to it and a simple message. It’s romantic, but beyond that it’s a comfortable song. It has an expression of sincerity layered over a realistic romance. The writer is clearly smitten by a woman who is “easy to love.” He keeps coming back for more. The “70s guitars” as I’d call them… really make the track have a nice nostalgic flavor.
The fourth track “Running for Cover” was officially released as the first single from this album. It, also, was a YouTube video released late 2012 that got me personally excited for this album. The song is so well mixed that I think the production personnel deserve about as much credit as the band. The vocal blending is some of the best I’ve heard in years, making it perhaps the best song on the album. This is one of those songs that could not find a home on anyone else’s album. It is thoroughly an Ivan and Alyosha song, complete with layered tracks and gorgeous blending.
The opening chords of “On My Way” immediately conjure a journey. It’s bizarre how that works that some remarkable musicians have an ability to generate a thought picture out of sound… and that certainly happens here. Then the lyric, “the war is almost won, can you hear the kingdom come?” helps to usher in a sort of spiritual element to the song. It has a mysterious, almost aloof majesty to it, that keeps me intrigued for every listen. And the finish… “I’m on my way back home.” What a destination.
There’s a hopeful melancholy to the song “I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore.” Again, it harkens a peculiar spirituality, even quoting the Christian cliché “the Lord ain’t done with me yet.” The lyrics turn to a series of former behaviors, capturing a focus on redemption and repentance. “It’s a hard road to get back to my home.” It’s beautiful and the lyrics blend well with the harmonies. Instant classic. The hopeful lyric, “I could teach the world my song” should be the most quotable lyric from the album.
“All the Times We Had,” the title track, featuring Aimee Mann provides a fantastic example of a perfect vocal pairing. We hear groups all the time that have one really high quality vocalist and mix in others that are on a much lower level. But what we have in this song is an intriguing mix of two voices that have a genuine quality about them. A little vibrato… a little grandeur… but mostly they’ve captured a timeless romance that examines the past in useful ways. It’s a wonderful song that easily makes the list of nominees for best song… of the year… not just on the album.
The album finishes with “Falling” and “Who Are You,” both tracks that have an Indie Rock vibe that seems a bit more contemporary than the others on the album. While much of the album seems to harken back to the 70s, these last two seem very much rooted in the 21st century resurgence of a particular brand of rock… that I’m not sure has a sure fire identifier. The takeaway sentiment is, “Who are you when no one is around?” There’s a character building question. Nice final message Ivan and Alyosha.
The final assessment of the album is that it is a must buy. It will find a place on my top albums list for 2013. It will get steady play in my personal headphones. It seems belated to call this an emerging band, but they are nonetheless still putting down roots in the Indie Rock world. I don’t think there’s even a genre for this style, but if you like Good Old War and The Head and the Heart, you will thoroughly enjoy Ivan and Alyosha.