Album Review: Surface Sounds by KALEO

KALEO is a five piece blues rock band from Iceland. I haven’t really heard much from KALEO, except for a few tracks from their album, A/B, which was their breakout sophomore album that gained commercial success. After being pushed back by almost a year, KALEO release their third studio album, Surface Sounds.

The first track from the album is Brother Run Fast. It opens up pretty quiet and it takes awhile for things to start to come in. We get some inaudible vocals from JJ and just an assortment of random small instrumentals. Other than that, when things start to open a bit more, we get your usual guitars, bass, and drums. It’s a bit difficult of what he’s referring to, but he’s telling this other person to run away since they already got him. There isn’t really anything too exciting from the first track.

Next, we come to Break My Baby which does liven up the mood of the album. We get a chorus of vocals and a few other instruments to open it up. Judging by the chorus, there’s several things you may be getting from this, however, most people are at the consensus of sex. The chorus is definitely a dead giveaway by the things he’s talking about. Other than that, I’m enjoying the more exciting instrumentation thrown together on this track.

Alter Ego definitely opens up with more exciting guitar parts as well as some inaudible vocals in the background. I’m also getting some classic rock vibes from some of the instrumental runs during the breaks in the song. Even the high pitched vocals remind me of some of the 70s and 80s classic rock era, so it’s a nice switch in directions for this album. The track talks about the alternate personality of people, especially when on a certain substance.

Free the Slave slowly opens up with a quiet guitar and it definitely has a ‘southern’ feel to this track. This track also becomes more lively after the first chorus, but the story seems to continue on from what he’s been talking about since the beginning of the track. At the beginning, it looks like they’re about to hang someone, even if this person wasn’t guilty. While he does seem to talk about someone else, he also talks about freeing the slave in himself.

Skinny was one of the more recent singles for the album. Just like the last track, it’s one of those slower and guitar focused tracks from the very beginning. But again, the track opens up during the chorus to show a bit more of what’s going on. Judging by the lyrics of the track, he seems to talk about the certain standards girls think they have to keep up to based on ‘societal standards’. He talks about how trying to go to these standards can lead to serious consequences.

Now we make it to Hey Gringo which has a sort of distorted guitar sound. This is also one of the most varied track instrumental wise, which is a nice change in tone. The title, ‘gringo’ usually refers to a foreigner (usually Americans) in some Latin American country. The chorus is a bit weird since it talks about smoking different things, however, the verses talk about him talking to a lady, but it sounds like she is already taken by someone else.

My Fair Lady is another slowed down and acoustic track, which is pretty common for KALEO since the majority of their first album was that way. While I’m not that huge of a fan of this track, you can tell that JJ is putting a lot of emotion into his singing, which just seems so effortless for him at times. As you may tell by the title of the track, this is a love song for this special someone. He keeps saying he’ll look out and be there for this person.

After a few seconds of nothing, I Want More starts to open up with someone whistling, and then after the whistling subsides, the guitar comes in. This track has been out for over a year, so it may seem a bit old for some fans, but I was never really intrigued from this track. While he’s talking about wanting more, it seems like he could be talking about a certain person or lover and wanting more out of what they have together.

Backbone is another acoustic focused track. The track opens up quietly with just a guitar as well as JJ’s voice. While you can hear emotion on this track, there are times where it just seems a bit lazy and it quickly turns me off from this track. There are several lines where it just seems he’s slurring his words and it’s messy. Other than that, I do feel like the chorus of voices towards the end of the track at least give a glimpse of what he’s trying to go after on this track.

Now we come to the longest track of the album, I Walk on Water which is just over five and a half minutes in length. The track opens up with a more uplifting vibe based on the tone of the guitars and his voice inflection. You can also just feel this huge moment building up until it finally just lets loose and you have this huge celebration. Just when you think you reached the climax of the track, it gets better towards the end.

The final track we have on the album is Into My Mother’s Arms. You can definitely hear that he’s closing the album with the soft piano as well as some of the other softer acoustic instruments thrown in on here. On this track, it seems like he just wants to go back into his mother’s arms. He says it’s all going to be alright and he won’t have to worry about anything. Other than that, it also looks like he’s showing his weaker side on here.

I really don’t know what I was expecting going into this album since I’ve only heard a handful of KALEO tracks, but this album definitely seemed all over the place. There are a few solid tracks, but I didn’t really get much from this one.

Overall Rating: 5/10

Favorite Tracks: Break My Baby, Alter Ego, I Walk on Water

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