Following their 2017 self-titled EP and 2018 singles “Meateater” and “Monster,” South London outfit ALASKALASKA unleashed their debut full-length The Dots this month with firm footing. Their horn-laden, ever-morphing pop skyscapes and dancefloor fillers are catchy, but rarely predictable. Led by principal songwriter Lucinda Duarte-Holman and bassist and producer Fraser Rieley, the group experiments with grooves and sonic textures in constant pursuit of honing their heady, intoxicating sound.
Their songs aren’t explicitly political but The Dots feels like a constant fight against external and internal negativity. On the pulsing title track, Duarte-Holman tries to keep her emotions at bay and seeks necessary comfort from others. With a bubbly synth loop, vivacious percussion and cascading horns, Duarte-Holman sings, “High tide, don’t hold your head down, ashamed / If I can do it one time, I can do it again.”
On the slick, downtempo groover “Bees,” ALASKALASKA address conformity and hierarchical structures (“It’s a shark’s den / Working for great white men / It’s a bee’s hive / What’s to understand? / Crack your eggs man, make another omelette / Let’s go shopping, buy another face, pretend”) and acknowledge the evil powers that be (“I’ve got questions for the politicians / I’ve got answers for the demon’s smile / Close your eyes kid, I think it might get ugly.”)
The smoky saxophone riff on the dancey “Moon” is the song’s firestarter as Duarte-Holman experiences both an emotional onslaught and antsy boredom in the dead of night. The heavy AutoTuned vocals on “Arrows” are a bit glaring at first, but fit in with the track’s icy texture and romantic tension. Much like “Tough Love,” many of the songs on The Dots contain enough flashes of emotional truth to uplift, but aren’t so specific or thematic enough to feel contrived. The synth-pop and jazz pastiches of “Meateater” sees ALASKALASKA bridge genres with ease, and the sweeping art-rock of “Monster” brings an intense melodic payoff.
With polychromatic rhythms, dulcet-toned lead vocals and zesty horns, ALASKALASKA’s danceable art-pop inhales and exhales like its makers. The Dots has a flowing energy and musical sophistication that’s never static, and their experimentation with different genres, rhythms and tempos appears to derive from a place of sonic exploration—not obligatory diversification.