Aluminum - Fully Beat (Pale Blue Vinyl LP)


The relatively short life of San Francisco's Aluminum has so far yielded a single (Spinning Backwards, 2020) and an EP (Windowpane, 2022), but their debut LP, Fully Beat, overflows with tenured confidence and a singular style that deftly comprises shoegaze, big beat, and jangle pop. With influences ranging from Orbital, to Wipers, to The Avalanches and Sly and the Family Stone, theirs is a multifaceted take on established forms, fed through fuzz and led by honeyed, male-female vocal harmonies from Bay Area post-punk veterans Marc Leyda (of Wild Moth) and Ryann Gonsalves (of Torrey).  "Smile" begins with deceptive sparseness, adding neon swirls of stacked tremolo over a mesmerizing lyrical refrain, and hinting at the dynamism to come with understated grace and grit. "Always Here, Never There" is Fully Beat's first pure hit of melodic pop: its liquid bass groove winds beneath a melancholy-sweet synth hook and Leyda's plaintive vocals, while drummer Chris Natividad's deep, pillowy snare and propulsive style maintain a driving pace.  Lead single, "Behind My Mouth", shifts gears into a big beat shuffle and howl of overdriven guitars, which relent to Gonsalves' rolling bassline and playful, snarky vocal. Composed across several weeks of experimentation, it is a prime iteration of Aluminum's meticulous world of sound, which nevertheless carries an air of wry nonchalance. Asking, "Do you ever see behind my mouth?", Gonsalves notes that the song "comes from a place of wanting to be understood authentically, and to communicate intentionally." This approach speaks to the album's broader theme of exhaustion amid the demands of the modern grind: working unfulfilling jobs to pay exorbitant rent, feeling society break at the seams, and trying to maintain a meaningful personal life with the remaining scraps of morale. The response, then, must be to find joy. These songs were crafted over a half-dozen months in basements and practice spaces, creating an abundance of authentic passion and catharsis that’s as nostalgic and comforting as a cherished, tattered band t-shirt.  The closer, "Upside Down", is a full-throttle blare of joyous release – "a straight-up love song," according to Leyda. The deliberate choice to end it with a gradual fade, rather than a dramatic climax, smartly suggests the ambivalence of acceptance – perhaps fitting, when considering the immensity of the album's subject matter. It also hints that there is much more to be said, and as such a rich and compelling debut, Fully Beat shows that Aluminum are only getting started.