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.
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.
‘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.