Album Review: Alcoa – Parlour Tricks EP

When artists step outside the musical genre in which they made their name it’s fair to say the results can be mixed. Thankfully Derek Archambault, best known for melodic hardcore outfit Defeater, has shown he also knows his way around Americana and Country edged folk-rock rather well too. As ‘Parlour Tricks’ his second release from side project Alcoa shows only too well.

One of the highlights of the record is definitely the vocal interplay between Derek and his now wife Alyssa, on tracks like ‘Poison Acquaintance’ and the two combine to create some luscious and effortlessly uplifting harmonies.

Elsewhere excellent use of slide guitars on ‘All Dolled Up’ and ’13 Years Bad Luck’ add depth and feeling and a reflective roots inspired vibe that conjure up images of sinking beers under a sunset in the American south.

A record so strongly rooted in American isn’t a place you would expect a track that gives a nod to British World War II history, but that’s exactly what we get on ‘Codebreaker’ complete with references to Bletchley Park. Shuffling uptempo drums, jangling guitars and swelling brass sections belying one of the records most lyrically forlorn moments.

Things get a little more upbeat towards the end of the record with gritty rockier numbers ‘For Holden’ and Rations’ that see’s Archambault deliver a soul baring earnest vocal delivery on the former, while the latter uses light sprinklings of organs and more slide guitar to blend Gaslight Anthem style Americana rock with an enjoyably rustic country twang.

Closer ‘Famous Last Words’ is a stark and unapologetic slice of raw acoustic folk, delicate finger picked acoustic guitars and harmonicas softly underpinning a particularly emotive vocal performances from Mr and Mrs Archambault that really pluck at the heart strings.

Although the more rustic elements of Alcoa’s sound may put off some listeners with strictly mainstream tastes, those that open their musical horizons and give ‘Parlour Tricks’ a chance are treated to an inviting wonderfully reflective and musically diverse record that soothes and thought provokes in equal measure. Like a good Bourbon whiskey ‘Parlour Tricks’ is a hard hitting acquired taste that instantly delivers a delightful warm glow inside.

3.5/5

‘Parlour Tricks’ by Alcoa is out now on Bridge Nine.

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Words by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright
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