What really shines across the 12 songs that comprise Calico Review (their first for Mexican Summer), is the way that the Allah-Las have pivoted from specific influences and nods to the music they love, to crafting the feelings of freedom, grit, and melancholy in their music. That feeling – the peerless capture of music long in the tradition and mood of California pop, the sound that's captured the essence of the LA experience – aligns with their stylistic technique and their experience in the studio environment to create their strongest album to date, one which showcases their developments in songwriting and arrangements.
The process began with their self-titled debut, which captured the Allah-Las' live set circa 2012 and continued onward with 2014's Worship the Sun, where they began to experiment with overdubs and writing songs individually instead of as a band. Now, Calico Review showcases a band that's grown confident in its own style to reflect the perspectives of each member, to craft an album that changes up the approach from song-to-song, while retaining their abilities as a cohesive unit.
Audiences familiar with the band will recognize the levels of nuance and steadiness the Allah-Las have grown into throughout Calico Review. It's immediate, the first thing you recognize about the band in the opening moves of "Strange Heat," in the amount of control and character burning off of the band's knack for restraint. Songs like "Famous Phone Figure" cradle character sketches over delicate strains of violin, organ, and Mellotron, Matthew Correia's drumming carefully underlining a three-note theme that casts a phantom sadness over the proceedings, the group exerting a touch both light and steady enough to bring your mood to theirs.
"Could Be You" works off a steady percussive gallop, guitarist Miles Michaud waxing reflexively on second chances while the band focuses on forward motion. "Roadside Memorial" applies the Bo Diddley beat to the open road, Pedrum Siadatian stepping up on vocals, and finding new ways to match his talents to propulsive musical ends. Elsewhere, "High & Dry," featuring Correia on lead vocals, focuses on the Allah-Las most quintessential and peerless quality: writing emotionally resonant pop, at once direct and detached, casual and knowing, and instantly memorable. The dream factory itself gets called out in the fun, surf-stung number "200 South La Brea," its carnival-like atmosphere reflecting the excitement and anxiety of those who await their judgment.