AgesandAges is not a cult. Sure, the seven-piece Portland group exudes enough electric joy that it feels like a big tent revival. And sure, one finds oneself using church words to describe the band's sound: a powerful, life-affirming and exploratory blend of lessons learned, set ablaze with a buoyant, unbridled optimism. And yeah, there are frequent lyrical references to voluntary seclusion, communal living and an existence "under the radar" littered throughout the band's debut, Alright, You Restless.
But amidst all this talk of willful isolation comes an element of the band that is hard to overlook: AgesandAges invites you into its ranks. In live performance, as gorgeous vocal harmonies rise victoriously to refuse the skepticism and irony that terrorize our daily lives, the venue becomes the commune, and the audience is given an opportunity to lower its guard. Everybody shares in the ecstatic energy that sets AgesandAges apart from most of its less vibrant Northwest contemporaries.
See, the Northwest isn't known for enthusiasm. There are a lot of frowning concertgoers who stand, unmoving with arms crossed, at the back of the room during their favorite band's shows. Frontperson Tim Perry's old band, Pseudosix, was so often greeted with that famous Northwest apathy that when the band closed shop he took a logical next step: forming a band so earnest and heart-on-sleeve that any jaded soul within its gravitational pull would be disarmed and physically moved. This indomitable spirit, combined with the band's considerable chops, has been enough to make AgesandAges a hometown favorite poised for national success.
Amazingly, the band found a way to translate its stomping, relentless live show seamlessly to disc. Recorded in 8 days with producer Kevin Robinson (Viva Voce, Blue Giant) at Amore!phonics, Perry says the secret was keeping things live: performing its songs as a full unit and singing together into a shared microphone. The resulting record sounds alternately sharp (the explosive, riff-packed opener, "No Nostalgia"; the complex, twisting "These Elbows") and warm (the exotic and haunting "The Peaks"; the slow-building "When I Was Idle"), with the band's rich percussive elements weaving into the campfire pop strums of acoustic guitar and graceful flourishes of strings and piano. There's no mistaking that the group uses every member to his or her fullest, the most rewarding result being the layered vocal harmonies that comprise the backbone of AgesandAges' timeless sound.
It only takes one listen to hear that Alright, You Restless is one of the strongest debut albums to come out of the Northwest in quite some time. AgesandAges didn't start as a cult, but there's a pretty good chance it'll grow into one.