Seattle indie rock group Ivan & Alyosha return with their newest effort since 2013’s debut LP, All The Times We Had. The group originally began as just a duo with Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary releasing EPs that dated as for back as 2009. But, taking their name from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan & Alyosha have expanded not only their personnel (now a quintet), but they’ve also broadened their sound on It’s All Just Pretend.
Ivan & Alyosha wrote and recorded It’s All Just Pretend in a home-studio in Seattle, as well as in Norman, Okla., and Los Angeles. Additionally, with the larger band, Carbary and bassist Pete Wilson (Tim’s brother) contributed more to the songwriting process. And yet, the group’s sophomore release doesn’t feel piecemeal. Rather, even with all the additional songwriting voices, It’s All Just Pretend still takes on themes of family, friends, faith and the fear of how it’s all so fleeting.
And moving away from the folksier tunes of their early career, Ivan & Alyosha experiment with more classic rock and roll and other instrumental flourishes. “Modern Man” has an almost U2-like echo to it, with delay pedal-addled rhythm guitars that sound like they came out of the early 2000s squealing out of the confines of the steady shakers (but those could also be credited to mixer/co-producer Joe Chiccarelli, who previously worked with the Irish rockers). “Oh This Love” starts as a swinging pop-rock tune, but by the time the band hits the chorus, a boisterous brass section chimes in to the sing-along. But with four out of the five band members married, and two of them with kids, It’s All Just Pretend also gets sentimental at times. “Tears in Your Eyes” is a confessional piano ballad, and the closing “Don’t Lose Your Love” is a lullaby for one of the kids. And so It’s All Just Pretend offers a steady balance of romanticism and reality, even if the music doesn’t stray past safe styles.