Allo Darlin’s eponymous debut album runs the spectrum from joyous, breezy, punky, jump-around pop with fabulous harmonies to sparse ukulele and steel guitar heartbreakers. Singer Elizabeth Morris and bassist Bill Botting form the Australian contingent of the band, and put the band’s sunny, optimistic sound down, in part, to the 365 straight days of sunshine they would enjoy back home in Queensland. “There’s another band from Queensland called The Go-Betweens who talked about having a ‘striped sunlight sound’,” says Elizabeth. “That’s always been a quality that I’ve been chasing in songs.”
The album was recorded at Soup Studios beneath London’s famous Duke Of Uke shop, which is - not coincidentally - where Allo Darlin’ was born. Originally from a country town in Queensland, Elizabeth moved to London in 2005 and began writing music. It was when she bought a ukulele from the Duke in 2006 that Elizabeth found a way to realise the songs in her head. “Suddenly the songs I was writing on uke felt a lot less laboured than the ones I was trying to write on guitar or piano, so in that sense it seemed very natural,” she says.
Heading to the studio under the shop to record with producer Simon Trought and guest Monster Bobby of The Pipettes, the place began to feel like home. “We had a lot of amazing nights in the studio, having parties, just making music because we love it,” says Elizabeth. “Nothing is better than being with your friends on a summer’s evening, everyone singing and drinking and playing together and forgetting about all the things that make life hard. So I think that feeling, of being in love and being with your friends, more than anything else, influenced the album. It was like being a kid again.”
The history of the ukulele in rock music is as short and quirky as the instrument itself. Before pop music there was cheeky Englishman George Formby Jnr strumming ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’ – “for a nosey parker, it’s an interesting job” – and then into the flowered late-’60s charts strolled the talented Tiny Tim, with his make-up and curls, baggy suits and ukulele carried in a paper bag, singing ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ and other vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley hits. In the rock world the ‘uke’ was enjoyed mostly in private, George Harrison being one enthusiast, and when Paul McCartney wished to pay tribute to his friend on his latest tour, he did so by playing ‘Something’ solo on ukulele. The instrument has been a staple on the alternative cabaret and roots-music scenes, enjoying a further burst of popularity with the banjo, kazoo, toy piano, mandolin and other decidedly non-rock instruments in the indie folk world over the last years. With perhaps none of this in mind the Rockhampton-born Elizabeth Morris visited the Duke of Uke shop in London’s Brick Lane in 2005 to buy a ukulele and soon discovered that the limitations and feel of the ‘uke’ opened a door to songwriting that had been closed to her on the more traditional song-crafting instruments of piano or guitar.
The songs she has written since then are the foundation of Allo Darlin’s eponymous debut album. Joining her is Bill Botting on bass, who was in the Brisbane band Polyvinyl, and on drums and guitar two Englishmen from Kent, Michael Collins and Paul Rains – Allo Darlin’ are based in London. The music they make is indie pop, a simple label but one hard to pin down in an ever-expanding indie scene that gobbles up genres and spits out mutations at a furious, internet-geared rate. Allo Darlin’ are the way much indie music used to sound, a style born of the more melodic and guitar-oriented end of post–punk, which was sugar-coated in the late ’80s by labels such as Sarah Records, and then perfected into popular form in the mid ’90s by Belle & Sebastian with their first three albums. Over the last ten years the twee pop scene has had to fend for itself as the young hipsters ran off and raided other closets. The White Stripes, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Animal Collective weren’t interested in writing about wistful glances exchanged between sensitive souls on the last bus home. Allo Darlin’ have picked up an old baton, and their record gives pleasure not only because they have revisited a recognisable sound with dash, but also because there are many good songs here, well written and imaginatively played.
The first impression the album gives is of lightness and sweetness, qualities not in vogue and not usually associated with either depth of feeling or musicians attentive to sonic detail. The obvious star is Paul Rains, who plays beautiful guitar. He underpins Morris’ melodies with tuneful jangle and fuzz, and helps to carry the first four songs along with a momentum that has you landing at song five, the album’s first ballad, ‘Heartbeat Chilli’, as if having undergone a speedboat ride and been delivered windblown to a distant shore. To welcome you are the slow chopped chords of Morris’ ukulele and the song’s opening lines: “I was in the kitchen on my own making chilli / You came in with an onion and got dicing.” As an opening side of an album it is nothing if not impressive.
And it is not only Rains who is committed and inventive. Michael Collins began drumming in Allo Darlin’, and though it is detectable in his playing, the effect is charming and never detrimental to the songs. A missed beat at the start of ‘Kiss Your Lips’ is startling to hear in an era of instant digital correction. Other bands would have shifted the accent, but Allo Darlin’ don’t, and that dropped beat and the speeding up at the end of some songs is a microcosm of the band: joyful, natural and far too smart to run back and correct mistakes.
The album was recorded in the summer of 2009 at Soup Studios, which in a neat twist of fate is located under the Duke of Uke shop. The songs chronicle the four years from instrument purchase to recording, and lyrically it’s a London album, lived by someone in their twenties. There is the everyday: the lack of money, long faces on the Tube, the heightened pleasures to be found in the night from a city that can grind you down by day, and beneath all this beat the myths you surround yourself with as you struggle and triumph in a foreign city. A lot of the songs centre on affairs of the heart, and Morris, perhaps by temperament and certainly in line with indie-pop dictates, is modest and romantic. The sound and approach of the album is aligned with its lyrics. There is a pre-Beatles, pre-1963 ring to much of the record: a naivety in the rhythm section, the tremolo in the guitar, and Joe Meek-inspired echoes in the production. Morris’ direct and relatively simple lyrics chime well with her melodies and the girlish tone of her voice, and offer a contrast to much of the agony and over-writing to be found in the first recorded works of many of her contemporaries.
Two songs near the end of the album stand out. The narcotic pull of lap steel guitar and throbbing bass helps lift ‘Let’s Go Swimming’ away from London to a lake near the Swedish coast. This is a song about the influence of landscape on inner feeling, and after seven songs around love it’s good to get out on the water. Morris doesn’t rummage too hard for meaning, letting the three verses arrive with whatever associations they may bring; some are straightforward – “the water here is so clear I can see to the bottom” – some funny – “it feels new to go swimming where nothing can eat you” – and some poetic, as the water throws her back to the waves of “a central coast of Queensland” childhood. It’s the only Australian reference on the album and it is powerful because it is unexpected and small. ‘My Heart Is a Drummer’ follows, and like ‘Let’s Go Swimming’ it takes away from the effervescence of the opening tracks. It is the only number on the album that gets inside a relationship, and the rebuke and the tension in the song give the album a deeper dimension as it reaches its close. There is also a misstep or two. ‘Woody Allen’ is too sweet, with “In the movie of our lives would Woody Allen write the screenplay?” as its opening line. And a slow chorus of Doris Day’s ‘Que Sera Sera’ in the record’s final song, ‘What Will Be Will Be’, is a quote too many on an album with its fair share of references.
Generously thanked in the album’s credits is Allo Darlin’s engineer and producer Simon Trought. He deserves it: this is a beautiful-sounding record. Low-fi to some ears, the album bypasses the dense harsh sprawl of much small- to mid-budget modern recording to go for a sound that’s in tune with the band’s instrumentation and that respects the need for audible lead vocals on lyric-intense music. He also integrates Morris’ ukulele to fit the band – and not the band to fit the ukulele – so that the thick strum of the instrument goes in and out of the album as exotic rhythm, reminding us where the songs have come from.
Many bands make big, broad debut albums and their second efforts are often retreats. Allo Darlin’ the band with Allo Darlin’ the album have shot lower and hit higher, and now have open doors before them. The fashion wheel could turn too, and the kind of spirited ‘old-school’ indie pop Allo Darlin’ make may be next year’s hot ticket – another reason, if one more were needed, to pay attention now.
(Robert Forster, The Monthly)
"It's always a mistake to think that any act's name will reflect what they sound like. But in the case of Allo Darlin', they couldn't be any further away from the Zoo Magazine-reading and wolf-whistling their moniker brings to mind. Their self-titled debut in fact has quite a sedate, whimsical feel to it. It's effortlessly cool, with a kind of Kings Of Convenience, Au Revoir Simone feel to it. Breezy late and light, it's late night listening distilled perfectly, especially lead off single "The Polaroid Song" and 80s twee-tinged "Woody Allen". They don't offer anything you could call innovative, but their songs are well crafted and improve on repeated listening. This record will have you playing it lots of times, though you may never be sure why, and released by Fortuna POP! who gave us The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart last year, Allo Darlin' could be 2010's surprise hit"
(Loud & Quiet)
"It was exactly this time last year that I first heard Pocketbooks' 'Flight Paths' album, a record so rammed full of potential singles, that it felt like a greatest hit set. One year on, and 'Allo Darlin' have repeated the trick.
This debut album opens up with the double kiss on the lips of 'Dreaming' - a song which should be Fortuna Pop!'s next hit single - and 'The Polaroid Song', which was released late last year and didn't deserve to be lost on the Christmas rush. These two have been stuck in my head for weeks now, and it shows this band's confidence that they can whack out two of their best songs so early in the album.
Wonderfully, 'Heartbeat Chilli' from last year's now sold out 'Henry Rollins Don't Dance' ep is also included, and showcases Elizabeth's sunshines vocals perfectly. Perhaps the most impressive track here is 'My Heart is a Drummer', which evokes 'We Love the City'-era Hefner and is genuinely SAD, and is perhaps the only time on the album where Elizabeth really lets her voice go on a song which is all about defiance. It's also got this amazing bouncy bassline that makes your legs go all bendy.
And that's followed up by 'What Will Be Will Be', a delightfully downbeat, autumnal love song which finishes this most fun of albums off on a slushy note. And I quite like that they've done that.
This album isn't out until June, but once you get it and the sun's out, you won't need much else. Apart from the Standard Fare record, of course..."
(A Layer Of Chips)
"Four songs into Allo Darlin’s debut album, frontwoman and songwriter Elizabeth Morris begins the joy-filled ‘Kiss Your Lips’ by telling of her and her paramour’s visit to a Parisian fairground, where after candyfloss and popcorn he decides to “prove to me your manliness” and win her a teddy bear. This, it must be admitted off the bat, is the sort of detail that still causes a lot of suspicion amongst many otherwise right-thinking folk. You could, if being uncharitable towards such things, also cite that Australian emigre Morris favours the ukelele, elsewhere on the album namechecks Motherwell indiepop heartbreakers the Just Joans and spends the rest of her musical life in a band, Tender Trap, with twee figurehead Amelia Fletcher. On the other hand, such guileless pop almost represents the true alternative in an increasingly sure of itself and its specific retro foibles, and the indie-pop scene, as the excellent recent album by their friends Standard Fare helped prove and the sleeper success of Indietracks Festival among other factors reinforces, is currently in particularly rude health.
Which is all very well, but you’ve still got to harbour the individual nous in order to step away from satchels and hairslides cliche. That’s just what Morris does, her playful but bittersweet lyrics finding a way to tell a story engagingly cut to the bitter quick with non-slushy sentiments intact. In that regard she makes a close lyrical approach cousin to Jens Lekman, an open hearted innocence parlayed into the language of love and loss and the musical accompaniment that isn’t afraid to head beyond usual jangle fare. Such lightness of touch enables Morris to find the right meaning in the smallest of detail. The flute solo bolstered ‘The Polaroid Song’ invokes the slow death of the titular camera film brand as a metaphor for the worries of a new relationship - “will we still look happy when we’re not so overexposed?” - while ‘Heartbeat Chilli’ prevaricates in the kitchen, and later in a lido observing the wrinkling of fingers in water, all the while waiting for the right romantic move to be made. That song also beautifully repurposes the first line from ‘Ring Of Fire’ as a chorus, the occasional drop-in of lyrical references – ‘What Will Be Will Be’ bases its chorus on ‘Que Sera Sera’, ‘Kiss Your Lips’ actually breaks into a gang vocal, fully cited steal from Weezer’s ‘El Scorcho’ – only seeming endearing.
Some have attempted to make links between Allo Darlin’ and Hefner, which goes so far in that they both share a confident loucheness of playing borne equally out of Jonathan Richman’s example, but by direct comparison this album comes across as sunnier and more optimistic about how relationships develop. ‘Dreaming’ pitches the conflicted emotions of Camera Obscura into a duet with Brighton scenester and Pipettes founder Monster Bobby, who especially for the occasion has approximated the baritone vocals of the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt, a swooping, swooning pop morsel about the impulsive heart (“It’s freezing out here on the pavement, but here in your arms it’s heaven/I can wait for you now but not forever”) that finds room for a lap steel solo. The Go-Betweens go surf of ‘Woody Allen’ attempts to cast the stars and producer of their love story and comes out of it oddly favourable, not least through the line “sometimes it gets bad, (but) it never gets Bergman bad” and a triumphant ending of “Max von Sydow couldn’t play you”. Most impressively, ‘Let’s Go Swimming’ rewrites the Magnetic Fields’ ‘All The Umbrellas In London’ via Belle & Sebastian circa If You’re Feeling Sinister to create a seeming defiant portrait of a single quietly beautiful spot in time, hazy slide guitar and imagery of hanging out by a Swedish lake in high summer capturing a moment beyond the kens of “all the hipsters in Shoreditch… (and) all the bankers in Highgate”.
When we talk about records fit for summer, we mean one that evokes lazy, crazy days of warm sun by means of unhurried ease and glorious melody. Allo Darlin’ certainly do all that, and ‘The Polaroid Song’’s appreciation of “dancing on my own to a record that I do not know in a place I’ve never seen before” pretty much nails it. Get it home, though, and there’s just as much to admire in the smart lyrical touch that belies any sort of scene connotations, a fine romance borne from catching hold of the little things."
(The Line Of Best Fit)
"Sometimes, just as you're thinking of giving up on pop altogether and taking up dry stone walling instead, an album like this comes along and all is forgiven.
Allo Darlin' are a ukulele-led indie-pop take on The Bangles. They sound like everything brilliant about the '80s - the pop sensibilities, mad childish optimism and John Hughes movies, not Thatcherism - all condensed into one sugar rush of an album.
Highlights include the Polaroid Song, an inspired, looping jangle of a track in which singer Elizabeth feels "like dancing on my own to a record that I do not own in a place I've never been before," and My Heart Is a Drummer, a joyous if derivative homage to Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
New single Dreaming is an indie disco duet stomper, featuring the unsettling croon of The Pipettes' Monster Bobby. Kiss Your Lips (which contains a riotous tribute to Weezer), Silver Dollars and Woody Allen are all strong enough to be singles. Heartbeat Chilli and Let's Go Swimming provide respite in balladry - both are lovely, gentle tales of intimacy and love.
Open the curtains, it's sunny out."
"“Allo darlin’!” said the cockney-kneed, asthmatic chancer. Thankfully that’s a different story. Because this is a tale of sun-kissed pop that can make the heart burst and tremor in equal measure. This is the tale of Allo Darlin’, the debut album from Allo Darlin’.
At its heart lies the friendship of two Australians and two Kent boys who met in London, and the ability to turn kitchen sink daydreams into nuggets of pure pop. The alchemy only began in January 2009 but by the end of the year the band was already getting the eyelids of the national press fluttering. 2010 should see a fluttering epidemic.
The album opens with Dreaming, which bursts into life with a parallel-lined Blondie strut, before slipping into the breathless musical and vocal charms so effortlessly aired by The Concretes.
Kiss your Lips romps along in the twinkle of a fairground-ride eye, a clarion call for anyone who’s skipped into the bright moonlight, with the memory of that first snog still glistening on trembling lips.
The playing and production on Allo Darlin’ follow a wilfully unpicked seam, inviting you in to the welcoming glow within. The band takes simple, untutored songs and with finely stitched arrangements, turns them into breathless journeys that hover beyond the harsh hills of reality.
Like Belle and Sebastian, Allo Darlin’ are masters at exploring the gaps between the paving stones, capturing and laying down on record a storm-washed rainbow of emotions.
On Let’s Go Swimming the haunted echoes of Paul Rains’ guitar slowly bleed across the landscape, as Elisabeth Morris’ hushed and seductive proposition softly sinks in. And on the rippling surface bob the reflections of Yo La Tengo’s Summer Sun.
The slumber is then spun on its heels by the fast-footed shuffle of My Heart is a Drummer, which steps dangerously close to Lauper’s girls…and they just want to have fun.
But this is the beauty of Allo Darlin’. They wrap synapse-seared pop hooks in a loving embrace. And when they finally let go, this hazy-beam gem of an album is what happens.
Allo Darlin’, Allo Darlin’…it’s never sounded so good."
"Twee-pop has enjoyed something of a resurgence in the past 12 months, with the likes of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and Standard Fare releasing albums that have been warmly received outside their usual fanbase. Elsewhere, Darren Hayman's on the mend and touring again after being attacked following a gig last year, and even godfathers of indie-pop The Primitives have reformed. It's all go, and the next band to strike while the iron's hot are key players in London's twee scene, Allo Darlin'.
The half Aussie, half Kent quartet are stalwarts of the London club nights still shimmying to the delights of Sarah Records and worshipping at the altar of Belle And Sebastian, and were even courted by Radio 1 last year, with the release of their showcase single Henry Rollins Don't Dance. Anyone hoping for more of the same won't be disappointed by their self-titled debut, which is back-to-back kooky, intricate, light hearted tales of love and friendship, with a sprinkling of downbeat ukulele ballads.
Opener Dreaming is unfortunate in that it shows how great they could be if singer Elizabeth Morris shared the mic more often. Its lyrics are typical of Allo Darlin', delving into a couple's differing reflections on a night out. It's a boy/girl recollection of discos, night buses and lust-fuelled longing. On a similar tip, fan favourite The Polaroid Song looks to Gorky's Zygotic Mynci for musical input and Camera Obscura for its themes - "We all looked so happy, like it was 1973....you said you'd been stock piling all the film that you could find before it all starts expiring and then there won't be polaroid anymore. Will we still look happy when we're not so overexposed?" wonders Morris. With layers of flute and an infectious shuffle-beat, it's four minutes of summer that would crack a smile on the moodiest of listeners.
Once in the mood, it's time to skip a couple of tracks to Kiss You Lips, a Pipettes-esque, brash attack on retro-pop. Its chant-along chorus is less subtle than their better tracks and some of their charm is ebbed away. Quality is quickly resumed a few tracks along, with If Loneliness Was Art which, while undeniably retro, with its '60s drums beats and girl band sha-la-la-las, has a curious little story to tell. "You've been on your own as long as I recall...if loneliness was art I could hang you from a wall in some Berlin hall," accuses Morris. Straight after comes Woody Allen, which sees her pondering over who could play her and her other half in the movie of their life. Diane Keaton and Woody Allen won't cut it, she doesn't want them to be like Alfie or Annie Hall but, she quips, "Sometimes it gets bad, but it doesn't get Bergman bad."
Then comes the gloom. On the whole it's their downfall - the likes of Heartbeat Chilli and What Will Be Will Be have the potential, with Morris's uke leading her through her more reflective moments, but fail to hit the spot. The exception is Let's Go Swimming. One of the album's highlights, the music is lifted straight from an early Belle And Sebastian album track, but paints a picture even the masters of twee fail to forge. A tale of sitting by a lake in Sweden, taking in its beauty and having one of those life-affirming moments, the hazy, dreamy combination of slide guitar and Morris's husky voice paint the scene through your ears. "All of the punks in Camden could never shout about it, all of the hipsters in Shoreditch could never style it, all of the bankers in Moorgate could never buy it, this is simple and it's true." It's lovely stuff.
The timing of Allo Darlin' couldn't be better - the Aussie portion of the band bring a ray of sunshine that will soundtrack your summer, but its sharp lyrics and occasional down-beat moments mean it's not sickly sweet. Expect them to grab the indie-pop baton and run with it."
In recent years twee, if there is anything as distinct as a genre by that banner, has had a rollercoaster ride. It has been the birthmother of records from both ends of the quality spectrum and has seen artists take a folky approach whilst others have attempted to distance themselves from this by playing heavy on the distortion. In its purest form it has become something of a musical marmite, yet Allo, Darlin’ bring it back to its simple, pleasure-pop best.
The indie-pop sensibilities of The Polaroid Song (“Feel like dancing on my own/ to a record that I do not know/ in a place I’ve never seen before”) are not there by any sort of coincidence, but with the unashamed intention of sounding like you haven’t a care in the world. Even if you really do. About something rather innocuous.
Kicking off aptly with Dreaming there is an absent-minded notion that permeates the whole record, yet the punctual use of question and answer vocals keeps the songs themselves from drifting away. Silver Dollars bassy opening parades as Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl for a short while but, as with much of the album, has just enough depth to pull through into a decent pop song — after a single verse any gambling man would have favoured the opposite outcome.
The moral of the story here seems to be that with enough references to add reality to the most ridiculous of situations there is still plenty of charm in the world to make whimsical pop work. The bass never stomps, but adds enough weight to the light strumming of a ukulele to complete songs such as If Loneliness Was Art and allows the gentler side to shine through on the delicate Heartbeat Chili. The record also has its fair spattering of “sha-la-la” harmonies and only Woody Allen ramps things up enough with a guitar riff snuck in to wake you from your daydream.
Twee needn’t be marmite anymore than it needs to be its own genre, and led by Elizabeth Morris’ gentle vocals Allo, Darlin’ will not be splitting vote anymore than they will cross over and set the world alight. It is one of those long players you should listen to; either you take it to heart or you don’t, but is certainly worth spending the time to find out.
Infectious twee-pop from the London-based part-Australian band who make tunes that are all Belle and Sebastian passed through Kings of Convenience, only wrapped up beautifully by the voice of Elizabeth Morris. The album is very aware of it's influences (The Go-Betweens emblazoned across their myspace) but there is a far clearer sense of enjoyment here; try to stop yourself sha-la-la-ing through 'If Loneliness Was Art'. Aware of it's place in time it is too with references to Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergam, Camden and Shoreditch, and the inhabitants of said hipster-hotspots and their inability to 'style' an idyllic lake in Sweden ('Let's Go Swimming'); 'this is simple and it's true' she sings. And this ethos is what shapes the album perfectly. It is almost a deconstruction of how we enjoy music, taken back down to it's basics, a simple perception of beauty at it's most pure; there is nothing new to be found on this album but everything borrowed is put together so perfectly that innovation is left outside in the rain looking a little miserable. There is no room for style or pretence, it's just pretty bloody sweet over here.
Das Label kündigt Allo Darlin´ als den nächsten Streich nach The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart an. Dabei haben die vier Londoner um die australische, seit 2005 in der englischen Metropole lebenden Sängerin Elizabeth Morris, das gar nicht nötig. Längst etabliert euphorisierten sie erst vor wenigen Monaten auf den Berliner Indie Pop Days, um dort überall strahlende Gesichter zu hinterlassen.
Zwar klingen Allo Darlin´ auf ihrem selbstbetitelten Debüt nicht ganz so mitreißend und kraftvoll, doch verfügt ihr luftig-charmanter, zeitweise jingle-jangelnder Twee-Pop immer noch über ausreichend Schwung und Verve, um auch am heimischen Herd zu plötzlichen Tanzeinlagen zu verleiten. Denn die hübsche Melodien zum Mitpfeifen bereit haltenden Songs, getragen vom charismatisch-zauberhaften Gesang Morris´, vermitteln einen herzerfrischenden Vibe, dem sich zu entziehen beinahe unmöglich ist. Wer beseelte Stücke wie „Dreaming“, „The Polaroid Song“, „Silver Dollars“, „If Loneliness Was Art“, „Woody Allen“ oder „My Heart Is A Drummer“ trotzdem nicht zu schätzen weiß, den sollten spätestens der Hit des Albums, das knackige „Kiss Your Lips“ und die berückende Melancholie von „Let´s Go Swimming“ abholen. Alle anderen müssen auf ihre Mutti warten oder hören weiter The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. 8/10