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Kodaline, ‘In a Perfect World’ – Album Review

Kodaline
RCA Records

Irish quartet Kodaline (who once went by the moniker 21 Demands) have unleashed their debut ‘In a Perfect World,’ which finds the band trafficking in sweeping alt folk and alt rock, in addition to diverging on a bit of an indie pop path, with an emphasis on anthems.

Yes, it’s a lot of hybrids, but music like this, which tells stories and comes from a place of experience, is incredibly popular in 2013, ranging from like-minded and like-sounding acts such as Snow Patrol, the Lumineers, Mumford and Sons and even Phillip Phillips and John Mayer. Those acts are Kodaline’s closest relatives, sharing strains of the same DNA.

‘In a Perfect World’ is lived in music, with a pulsating heartbeat you can sense in the songs. The album feels like life in that it cycles through various moods and styles over the course of 11 songs.

The album is largely head down alt rock and pop without much of a sense of humor. It’s a hooky record and it’s unquestionably anthemic, but it does take itself a bit too seriously, making it a “heavy” album.

It’s mirthless, but not every album needs to be stocked with upbeat bangers. Kodaline aren’t that type of band, anyway. Not. Even. Close.

The album may have benefitted from clocking in with one or two fewer tracks, in order to keep things compact. But overall, what it lacks in lightheartedness it makes up for in sincerity.

1. ‘One Day’
If Adam Levine and Maroon 5 stripped their music of sheen and went a little more Radiohead (not Coldplay), it might sound like the sweeping, expansive indie pop of ‘One Day.’

2. ‘All I Want’
Their lead single is like many of its peers on ‘In a Perfect World,’ thanks to its spare instrumentation and emotive vocals. There’s an emotional richness to the deliberately paced song. It reminds us a bit of the Lumineers, thanks to its storytelling.

3. ‘Love Like This’
Thanks to the harmonica and guitar-driven intro, ‘Love Like This’ is a fast, folky number that fills your ears and the room. It’s got “pub singalong” energy, but it’s a little cleaner and a lot more sober. There is the communal singalong in the coda… or is that the “koda?”

4. ‘High Hopes’
In ‘High Hopes,’ there is a palpable ache and yearning in the vocals. Vocalist Steve Garrigan has a quality to his voice that is hard to divorce from the likes of Thom Yorke and Chris Martin.

5. ‘Brand New Day’
There aren’t tons of upbeat, jangly pop rock numbers on the record, but this one of them. It’s a concise song, powered by semi-falstetto vocals and a shimmery chorus.

6. ‘After the Fall’
Urgent guitars push to the forefront of ‘After the Fall,’ as do pristine vocal harmonies. Garrigan calls to mind the aforementioned Martin in the verses.

7. ‘Big Bad World’
Despite a sparkling hook, ‘Big Bad World’ is a song that asks a lot of questions, lyrically. It’s got a bit of melancholy coursing through the notes and the vocals, and a full, anthemic mid-section.

8. ‘All Comes Down’
One of the more affective tracks, ‘All Comes Down’ is a vehicle for Garrigan’s voice and he gets soulful. This one will haunt you and he sings like he is afflicted with a case of the blues.

9. ‘Talk’
Perhaps due to where it was sequenced in the album, ‘Talk’ feels like a filler track. It’s about being unable to hit the reset button.

10. ‘Pray’
Here we have a slab of alt rock, with a little more tension, thanks to the pianos. It’s a dark track, sonically, but it’s topped with the wistful falsetto vocals. This has movie montage written all over it, albeit an indie drama.

11. ‘Way Back When’
The album closes with a recollective track that begs to be sung around the campfire, thanks to the fingersnaps and acoustic guitar, as well as the subject matter. It ponders the future…and the past.

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