Music Monday: Ivan & Alyosha

Hey guys! Long time no see! :O Sorry, I've been busy and *blah blah blah* you don't wanna hear it, I know. BUT, I want to return to your good graces by introducing (or hopefully for some of you, RE-introducing) you to Ivan & Alyosha. I've posted about them once or twice or thrice before, so if you'd like to catch up, feel free to check out each of those links. They have been one of my top ten favorite bands for just under three years now, but the good news for you is that they released their first full length album almost two months ago. Based in Portland, OR, they've already released a handful of EPs and they had success financing the LP release via Kickstarter, which they'd previously used to finance a North American tour. There's a very honest grassroots feel about these guys, and they have the raw talent to merit that kind of attention. ivan Jumping into the first feature album, titled All The Times We Had, you're immediately struck with the level of professional recording time these guys managed to squeeze in at the studio between their live gigs. Right off the bat you're introduced to "Be Your Man," an infectious rouser with some pretty keen harmonies. As a matter of fact, keen harmonies are one of the things these guys do best. If you did take the time to check out the links above, you probably already gathered that much.   On the flip side, "The Fold" which they featured heavily on 2012's Cabin Sessions EP also received some pretty heavy-handed studio bells and whistles, and quite frankly that new version is the only part of the album that feels out of place. So much so, that I can't give the album a perfect rating because of its inclusion. I know I probably only feel that way because of how deeply I connected to the song when I first heard it, but you know how it feels when a lesser talented artist covers one of your favorite songs by a band? I feel like that happened here. Only it's the same band, covering their own song, only the magic harmonies and raw musicianship either got left out or drowned out by an overzealous recording mixer. It's still a damn fine song, and I won't be the least bit surprised to see it show up on network television as a soundtrack song, but the first recording imprinted on me in a big way. Friend of the band Aimee Mann can be heard on the title track of the album. It's a melancholy ode to the glory days gone by of the protagonist characters' relationship. The song is truly very earnest, but it sounds so uniquely Portland, that for some reason I have a scene in my head featuring the cast of "Portlandia" (on which Mann has appeared, so maybe she's the cause?) in various vignettes pantomiming the lyrics while getting drenched in the northwestern rain and so forth. I think it helps me make what could be a wrist-cutting song a joy to listen to. That's what I'll tell myself, anyway. The live version below has lead singer Tim Wilson's brother, Pete, filling in for Amy's vocal parts. I've mentioned it before – most especially when talking about First Aid Kit – but sibling harmonies > all other harmonies.