Aliza Carter Band – Clearer – Breathtaking new album with powerful, transcendent harmonies

When I first listened to this album I emailed the band with excitement. This is honestly one of the best albums of the year, regardless of genre or label level. It’s breathtaking and incredible. There are harmonies on top of harmonies on this album. It’s so good.

The opener is a quaint instrumental that serves as a sweet introduction to this band. But then without further ado the second track “Foxtrails” pulls out all the stops with layered gorgeous harmonies and crescendos that keep building the listener into a folksy, sweet frenzy!

“Midnight” is the song off of this album that has literally moved my emotions on several occasions. I can’t even put words to how it does it… but all I can say is that this is not normal music. There’s like someone’s heart written into the song. The music itself is ambient and charming, then Alicia’s vocals come in to completely blow the song out of the water. Even the ethereal “ooohs” to introduce the track are stunning. This is a contender for song of the year for me for sheer ambiance alone (okay, Alicia’s vocals help, too!). The harmonies are incredible and the feeling is supposed to be dreamlike… and it is.

The laid back feel on “Another Sun” is exceptionally good. It reminds me of the vibe on John Mayer’s “Gravity.” Alicia’s intonation and clear articulation works so well for the track. It’s bluesy, it’s jazzy, and it’s even a little exotic sounding. When Zachary (or “Carter” if you will) joins in on the harmonies, the track just soars. It keeps that jazzy intimacy throughout. The lyrics seem to be playing on the “sun will rise again tomorrow” theme, that even though it can be cold to endure a breakup or a rough relationship, the sun still shines and is warm. “But keep in mind it’s my heart you’re gamblin’ with…” This is fundamentally a blues song, hidden in the soft strums of a sweet folksy (even pop) sounding track.

“Soon” feels much more like a conventional “folk” song… at least as much as any on the album. The vocals are good on this one, but the cello steals the track. Alicia reminds me a little of Ingrid Michaelson on this one. “And every night I’ll sing him songs… he will always sing along… we’ll both get knots in our lungs because of how much it means.” It’s like she knows me. What a beautiful sentiment, well delivered by an expert singer-storyteller. This is what folk music is all about.

The title track “Clearer” allows Zachary’s also-wonderful voice to shine. In some sense, the brother-sister duo idea reminds me of The Oh Hellos, a band whose at-times ambient electric guitar sound is also evident in Aliza Carter Band. Although I am (notoriously?) in favor of stripped down bands and simplistic sounds, I have to say the full band emphasizing that things are “getting clearer all around us” really works for this band and this track especially. As with the rest of the album, the sibling harmonies steal the show on this song. I’m not certain the theme of the lyrics, but they seem to be about discerning a moment clarity and direction in life (or in a relationship?).

I sometimes throw around flippant compliments, but I really have to say I love this album. I love the band’s sound on every track. I love Alicia’s voice a lot. I think the songwriting concepts are fitting with the sound. It’s just a really phenomenal band with a great album. Anyone that trusts my taste in music or bothers to read this site should go out and grab this album. It’s full of breathtaking harmonies and stunning instrumentation. You will not be disappointed.

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