The first full album of original music from Halloween, Alaska since 2011 is neither young nor naive nor angry nor desperate. It's the latest artifact from a veteran band with a persistent cult following and a distinctive indie M.O. whose influence can be heard and felt far beyond its native Minneapolis.
Le Centre is an audacious set from a group that was electronic with live instruments well before such things were standard. In 2018, Halloween, Alaska feels more like a band than at any other point in its history, comprised of founding members James Diers (voice/guitar/keys) and David King (drums/keys), guitarist Jacob Hanson, and bassist William Shaw.
The new album's ten songs exude a range of commanding moods and textures, from the frenetic indie-prog palette of "Ginger" and “Defender” to unlikely pinches of R&B or blue-eyed soul, as on “Long Views” with its Prince-inflected guitar solo, or on “Passport Pages,” which comes off like some modernist mash-up of Spoon and a Steely Dan B-side. "Cosmetics" posits post-D'Angelo funk through the lens of hazy '90s slow-core, while the slow-burning dance floor balladry of "Don't Need Shade" harkens to the band's ambient '00s origins.
In the wrong hands, this constellation of reference points might come off as cold or intellectual. But Le Centre reveals Halloween, Alaska as a warmly human outfit through lyrics and themes that neither strive for earnestness nor dismiss it. As ever, Diers excels at lines and refrains that can be both self-deprecating and a little romantic (“I did a little research into how the sun sets” from “Temper”) or acerbic without seeming jaded. As a whole, it’s familiar but challenging, restless but inviting. Sonically, the new material benefits from the intrepid ears of engineer Brett Bullion (Now Now, Bad Bad Hats, Dem Yuut), who recorded and mixed the album in Minneapolis.
Halloween, Alaska started as a true side project (featuring members of stalwart favorite Minnesota bands such as The Bad Plus, 12 Rods, Happy Apple, and Love-cars), an outlet for indulging electronic tones and an almost meditative restraint. But over the last decade and a half, it’s become something quite different. The group has adapted and endured with a collaborative, experimental spirit that's confident enough to color outside the lines without betraying the ultimate beauty of the bigger picture.
Halloween, Alaska (2004)
Too Tall to Hide (2005)
Champagne Downtown (2009)
Occasion: Remixes (2010)
All Night the Calls Came In (2011)
Fake Mistakes: Remixes (2012)
Liberties [covers EP] (2013)
PRESS QUOTES RE: HALLOWEEN, ALASKA
"[FOUR STARS]...Halloween, Alaska's emotive verve and electro-organic poise is so accomplished, you'd think you'd got your hands on The Blue Nile's mislaid comeback album." — MOJO
"You won’t find Halloween, Alaska, anywhere on a map. Instead, this Minnesota band inhabits a sensual, weightless world of sweetly brooding electronic pop ... with drummer David King (also of the Bad Plus) adding tastefully muted beats while James Diers’ abstract lyricism wraps you in a sleepy caress." —SPIN
"...like [TV On The Radio], this Midwestern quartet lays out moody guitar and keyboards bric-a-brac atop subtly quaking beats...soft, glassy drones, worried groove glitch, a sly come-on cribbed from an old Prince song." — BLENDER
"[FOUR STARS] ... carefully crafted atmosphere, with all extraneous nonsense removed...so carefully picked and programmed that you dwell on their texture in the same way that you'd run your finger over the grain in a piece of wood.... Mesmerising stuff." — SUNDAY TIMES (UK)
"A lot of bands claim not to fit any preexisting pop music genre, but few can back up such claims as convincingly as Minneapolis-based Halloween, Alaska...jittery-jungly and swooningly melodic...sonically large and weirdly cathartic...Highly recommended." — ALL MUSIC GUIDE
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