Release Date: June 29th 2018
Two of the most coveted traits for any band are identity and relatability. Many musicians attend photoshoots which involve dressing in black and standing against a brick wall before going home to try and write the perfect break-up song. Berkley-based five piece Nalamora have successfully obtained both of these traits in an unconventional, yet unbelievably effective manner. They promote themselves as the ‘Peace & Love Party Band’ and embrace the stereotypical 1960’s hippy image to the fullest, complete with psychedelic artwork and protest signs on stage at their gigs. However, this unmistakable image is only the surface of an immensely relatable band; not only to a very specific target market, but also to a global audience. They’re unashamedly proud of who they are and listening to their music is very much like having a direct conversation with the band members about their day. With origins dating back to 2007, the current lineup self-released their debut album ‘Heart-Shaped Raw Kin Role’ in June 2018; a frank, humourous and emotional snapshot into a very tight-knit demographic.
The album kicks off with lead single ‘California Poppy’, a Lennon-esque ballad frankly addressed towards a romantic prospect. The verses are carried by a laid-back piano progression underpinned by bass and drums, forming a solid foundation for lead singer Neil Nyberg’s conversational delivery. Nyberg allows his natural dialect to come through in his singing voice, which gives real insight into both his identity and personality. Lines such as ‘I like that you’re the the type of gal that’s sorta naughty’ delivered in a warm southern accent instantly brought a grin to my face. It very much sounds like the type of thing one might admit after one-too-many beers at a barbecue on a warm summers day in the south of the USA. This effectively introduces us to the band’s well-targeted market; working and middle class citizens in the south of the country. Overdriven guitar and elongated backing vocals join the arrangement to really launch the track into the chorus. Lyrically, the drawn out hook of ‘love you’ gives the chorus a real lift when contrasted with the more conversational delivery of the verses.
‘About A Dog’ is delivered from the point of view of a family dog and accompanied by a classic punk sound. I ended up laughing out loud at several points throughout this track due to the ingenuity of the lyrics; lines such as ‘I pee on things marking my territory/And I might hump your leg if I start to get very horny’ delivered with a Ramones-esque snarl perfectly encapsulates the average dog’s understanding that they’re capable of getting away with murder by taking advantage of their owner’s affection. By this point, it’s clear the band has a phenomenal sense of humour; they revel in taking the empirical aspects of their target audience’s life and deliver it through a witty set of lyrics under a fitting instrumental track. I’d imagine the satirical and frank side to much of their output would make them a huge amount of fun in a live setting.
‘My Friends & I (feat. Carlie Mari)’ showcases a strong reggae influence; a creamy lead guitar line sits atop a laid-back groove of staccato bass and syncopated guitar chords. Carlie Mari’s double-tracked vocal performance is of particular praise; whilst she sings in a loose glissando style, the double track is incredibly tight and it’s clear she’s put a lot of thought into every syllable. ‘Loss of a Loved One’ brings back the Lennon-esque style explored in the opening track. Whilst the subject matter of an untimely bereavement is much more serious in tone, I was particularly impressed that Nyberg retained his conversational delivery and use of colloquial language to effectively present the lyrical content. This lets us know that the band is not a one-trick-pony writing comedy songs, but instead a group simply singing about all aspects of life with a very well-targeted audience in mind. They’re willing to comment on relatable aspects of all areas of life in the southern states, from the dog humping your leg to serious family emergencies.
‘Taking Off’ sees a combination of the band’s punk and reggae influences. A scrappy overdriven guitar riff and rumbling bassline sits aside syncopated guitar stabs in the verses. The harmonies on this track are particularly notable; they’re perfectly in tune whilst retaining the more aggressive punk delivery, showing the band’s attention to detail. ‘Purpling’ sees a return of the band’s signature sense of humour, providing candid commentary on a teenage boy’s relentless pursuit of a girl. At this point my attention turns to the record’s production, which is overall very good. All instruments have been well recorded and the tones of each instrument on each track are well selected. The mixing and mastering is also very good, with all instruments sitting nicely and no muddiness. The volume and compression is also consistent across each track, making for a smooth-flowing and comprehensive body of work.
Whilst not directly being a part of this band’s well-targeted market, I found ‘All My Ambition’ so relatable that I found it difficult to get through. The song concerns the mindset of an aspiring musician and the relentless passion to make a success of yourself. Lines such as ‘I am not cut out for normal jobs and being average/I’m am different and I am special so I just won’t have it’ will undoubtedly resonate with aspiring musicians across the world and provide some consolation to a set of incredibly isolating and difficult feelings. ‘A Way To Get Back Home’ has a great hardcore punk feel, bringing a strong NOFX influence with a classic ‘one-two’ drum beat under a scrappy guitar and bass accompaniment. Particular praise goes to drummer Austin Pauls for some creative and well-timed fills across the track. Whilst the band dips into a few different genres, they are closely-related enough to make the album feel varied without becoming disjointed. Another thing I notice at this point is that whilst the album is packed with radio-ready singles, many of them are rather lengthy. Whilst the material is efficiently organised and appropriate for the album, it wouldn’t hurt to make a few radio edits should the band want to promote any of their music on radio or streaming services.
‘Rebel For The Cause’ features an interesting combination of both grunge and britpop influences. A catchy lead synth line is underpinned by distorted power chords and a no-nonsense drum and bass groove. The highlight of this track was the instrumental section and coda towards the end; the string-based synth brings the mood down and sets the scene for an explosive coda of ‘it all will change’, bringing the lyrical themes of the track full circle and ending things on a high. ‘Planet In Crisis (We Are One)’ rounds the album off on an introspective note from Nyberg armed with just an acoustic guitar. Production-wise, the track has a lo-fi and distorted sound, which almost feels like you’re sat in the rehearsal space with Nyberg. The lyrical content concerns his views on the world’s current issues. Whilst this was very sincere in delivery, I also felt it would most likely be representative of much of the band’s target market.
Overall, the debut effort from Nalamora showcases a very talented band expertly narrating the lives of daily life in the south of the USA. The album is a real emotional roller coaster, with moments to laugh and moments to cry at every turn. The band expertly blend a range of genres including punk, reggae, pop and indie which give the album a varied feel without becoming disjointed. The production is outstanding and the attention to detail shown on the record is of particular praise. Thoroughly recommended for any punk and reggae fans living in the south of the United States.