[RAW CHORAL POP] It's not too often that an album sinks its teeth into a listener within the first five seconds. AgesandAges' debut, Alright You Restless, does just that—the clap-along hick-funk beat and folk-rock licks of opener "No Nostalgia" seem pulled straight out of the Band's playbook, and it's the kind of infectious, hot-shit groove that forces indie rock kids to shell out beer money for ring tones. Fifteen seconds into the track, the group's thick, tight-but-exuberant vocal harmonies have entered the picture, and it's almost too cool, too perfect to stand. If there's a danger here, for AgesandAges, it's that the music will be perceived as having been formulated in some top-secret folk-pop research facility—a place where nerds in lab coats coldly crossbreed the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies with Fleet Foxes' "White Winter Hymnal."
The band's origins couldn't be a starker contrast to that image. Tim Perry began AgesandAges as a last-ditch effort to find joy in making music—an activity he worried he'd lost his passion for after the 2008 collapse of his former band, Pseudosix. Perry took a yearlong hiatus from writing songs, frustrated by a perceived apathy in the local music scene. "Portland is sort of a shoulder-shrug vortex," he says via email. "Way too many people keep things at arm's length, too timid to connect themselves fully to something and show some fucking enthusiasm."
Perry vowed not to start another band until he found players who were completely gung-ho and joyful about making music. Before long, he had found six of them. And while AgesandAges' lush vocal harmonies, clean production and mix of electric and acoustic instrumentation are all hallmarks of contemporary Northwest music, the septet's most striking characteristic—its joyful, electric spirit—seems almost comically out of place in a city full of down-tempo sad sacks.
All of which is laid bare on Alright You Restless. The debut disc, a concept album of sorts about the pros and cons of moving to a commune, finds the band's seven members playing rollicking, stomp-along roots-pop while trading playful vocal parts à la the Free Design. And as is the case on a real commune, each member puts in work to form a more perfect musical union. "All hands are always doing something," Perry says, slightly playing up his cult-leader band persona. "Everything live and in the moment." That's the same approach AgesandAges took to recording the disc with Viva Voce's Kevin Robinson: The members gathered around an omnidirectional microphone and played their parts live, adding group vocals after the music was laid down. Flaws were embraced. Reverb and other vocal effects were avoided at all costs. "That shit is bone dry, for better or worse," Perry says. It's definitely for the best. In fact—and this is not my usual advice—the band could do to get a bit sloppier in live performances, where it is almost too flawless and rehearsed.
See, the big lesson in Alright You Restless isn't, despite endless lyrics to the contrary, that moving to the sticks with your friends will fix your life. The lesson is that desperation breeds art with a pulse. Which puts AgesandAges in a tricky spot, where success and repetition could spoil all its fun. But what are they going to do? Move to a commune?
SEE IT: AgesandAges releases Alright You Restless on Friday, Feb. 11, at Mississippi Studios. 9 pm. $8. 21+.