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Slightly psychedelic with a touch of jazz, Also is labeled by fans as “L.A.’s best kept secret.”  The band name is said to imply “possibility, open-endedness.” Additionally, the name incites expectation as if to say, But wait, there’s more!  And with Also, there’s always something more than what you initially expect.

Founded in 2003, Also is comprised of vocalist/songwriter Drew Conrad, bassist Mark Zelen and drummer Scotland Stephenson.  Somewhat pensive with occasional dramatic flair, their sophomore album, released February 2011 is titled Music Belongs in the Background.

Also opens with a question: “Shall we wait until our last day to say, I love you?”  Breathy vocals strengthen into bold challenge as the song describes someone intimidated by nothing except those three little words.  Also moves beyond the fear however, acknowledging that we’re each given a finite amount of time in life.  The slow deliberation that follows is subdued with a turn of jazz to uplift.
The cymbal rhythms continue with the quirky “Call It Funny,” which asks, “Is my life legitimate?”  This song is fun in its sarcasm.  Lyrically and vocally similar to The Smiths, yet not quite a dance tune, the guitars power along as Also shouts about “turning down the volume of what’s wrong.”
The bongo style drums garner most of the initial attention in the moody Pink Floyd style “By Now You Should Know.”  Soothing vocals carry a hint of greed in the line, “I will never let you go” so that you’re not sure whether to be comforted or intimidated by the sentiment.
The album then produces its title track, grooving with lots of bass and booming drum sequences.  Sounding a bit like Muse on this track, the echoes and layering create a surreal feel while commenting, “When did you pack up the dream?”
Conrad’s vocals become lilting once again, this time in “Wilshire Boulevard.”  The steady bass and edgy guitars balance the softer vocals, preventing the song from delving into soft-rock sappiness.  Here’s proof that music can remain in the realm of alternative rock, even without the angst-ridden lyrics.
Venturing into jazz fusion, “Aim High” and “Mayfly” are relaxed and engaging, like sitting on a mulberry couch while sipping latte.  They are genuine candidates for Your Favorite Coffee House Rock.
Also very nearly takes up a dance rhythm in “Unloaded” except that they’re laden with psychedelic overtones while repeating, “This is what it sounds like when you’ve got to change your daydream.”  The mood works with the lyrics, and the cut-off ending presents a wake-up call from the dreamy notes.  Then as if to apologize for the rude disruption, Also continues the surreal sequences with “Frost,” allowing you just a couple minutes more to ease into reality.

Also creates a variety of atmospheres – dreamy, jazzy, edgy, groovy – in which to present their compelling lyrics.  The songs thematically blend well, and just when you think you know what the album will lead into, ‘Music Belongs in the Background’ surprises you by altering the path.

Rating: 4.5/5


Hear the entire album on last.fm.

Upcoming Shows

Thursday, 1 September 2011
Silverlake Lounge, Los Angeles, CA, United States