Allah-Las

Lahs

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After three records spent digging deep into the super-chill fantasy version of L.A., complete with surf guitars, Allah-Las do things a little differently on Lahs. The band still play with the relaxed style of four guys with nowhere to go and all the time in the world to not get there, but this time around they are looking outside of their comfort zone and trying some new things. Not only that, but they've given their well-established sound a makeover -- stripping back at least three layers of reverb, bringing the vocals closer to the front, and allowing the drums to snap a little bit here and there. Along with this new sonic approach, they dig into a wider variety of styles, not just sticking to gauzy psych and sleepy surf music. There's a little bit of slow-motion, last-call disco ("Roco Ono"); a rollicking near-novelty rocker ("Keeping Dry") that has a beat so loose it feels like the drum kit is about to come apart; a singsongy experimental track ("Royal Blues") that's driven by a rudimentary drum machine and some chanting; a bit of outré bossa nova ("Electricity"); and a whole bunch of songs that make it clear that they spent a lot of time listening to the Dead on their tour bus. Somewhere on one of those trips, they switched from guitars that felt lifted from a psychedelic Surfaris album to happily meandering lines that sound like they were cut from American Beauty at the last minute. The loping, good-natured, and slightly stoned feel of many of the record's songs gives them a heavy Dead feel too; only a few have any of the drive and swagger that the best songs on the band's previous album Calico Review had. Even fewer have any of the murky melancholy of their earliest records. It's a big change all around, and for the most part, it works. A few of the frothy, almost goofy songs feel a little out of place, but the rest of the album manages to tap into the laid-back, barely breathing thing that the Allah-Las do so well. If it's a little more disco-y or Dead-y here and there, that's okay since they manage to make it sound like they are folding the new styles into the group's esthetic instead of grafting disparate things together in an awkward way. There may be moments that give fans expecting another laid-back psych record pause, but on the whole the Allah-Las succeed in refurbing their template and coming up with something that's both extremely chill and interesting at the same time.

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