Kaleo – Surface Sounds

7 May 2021 / by Caelan Monkman
Surface Sounds (by KALEO)
Album reviews
Kaleo Surface Sounds
Released: April 23, 2021
Label: Elektra Records
Alternative Rock / Blues Rock
Hozier / The Black Keys
Skinny, Hey Gringo, I Walk on Water

It’s been five years since the last album release from Kaleo, the Icelandic blues rock band which took the world by storm with their hits ‘Way Down We Go’ and ‘No Good’ in 2016. Now, after two tours, five singles, and release delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaleo is back with their third record, Surface Sounds, and they do not disappoint.

Surface Sounds, much like its predecessor, features both thunderous blues rock anthems and soft acoustic ballads while also venturing into new musical ground in songs like ‘Hey Gringo’ and ‘Skinny.’

The album opens with the somewhat forgettable ‘Brother Run Fast’ which does a decent job of setting up the album to come, but doesn’t match either the intensity or vulnerability of the songs to follow. From here, the band picks it up with ‘Break My Baby’, a heavy hitting blues rocker criticizing the music industry, a theme that can be seen running through much of the album.

The album’s third track, ‘Alter Ego’, showcases lead singer JJ Julius Son’s falsetto screaming a la Robert Plant. Along with this, the heavy blues track features a pulsing drumline and a wicked guitar solo to top it off. 

‘Skinny’, the last single of the album, finds a beautiful middle ground between Kaleo’s acoustic vulnerability and explosive rock sound. The lyrically strong acoustic verses talk about unrealistic expectations put upon women and artists in general. The chorus erupts from these verses, in an explosion of electric guitars and drums making the track the climax of the album.

The second half of the album, a switch to mostly acoustic tracks, features Julius Son’s smoky vocals on the peaceful love ballads ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘I Want More’.

I Walk on Water’, a re-release from the band’s debut album, feels like a theatrical album finale, complete with a soaring strings section and a full chorus. And yet, the album concludes with ‘Into My Mother’s Arms’, a soft piano ballad that is lyrically beautiful and emotionally resonant, which feels out of place played after the theatrical ‘I Walk on Water.’

Through explosive rock tracks and lyrically vulnerable acoustic ballads, Surface Sounds showcases Kaleo’s mastery of their A/B blues rock while exploring new musical territory. Even in the album’s weaker moments, the songs are still catchy and make for a very enjoyable listening experience from start to finish.