Over two albums, it’s been easy for many to pigeonhole Allo Darlin’. It’s twee. It’s a girl with a ukulele. It’s soft, sentimental, rehash. And sure, there is validity to the knocks against Allo Darlin’, but to dismiss their two excellent albums — and this new, worthy entry into their canon — is to fail to see the mastery of songwriting that frontwoman Elizabeth Morris has accomplished over a relatively brief time at the craft.
We Come from the Same Place picks up right where 2012’s Europe left off, but with Morris now living apart from her bandmates for the first time in their career; she left London for the Italian countryside, and recorded on brief returns to her home country. Maybe it’s projection that makes Morris sound further away than usual, but on the title track, her voice doesn’t join in the crowd of musicians. It stands firmly on one side of the room, leaving the music as an indistinct counterpart, bridged by backing vocals on the second chorus, sounding like a reunion when discussing an “awkward call at the airport,” declaring the titular sentiment. It’s gold.
Better is “History Lessons”, a candidate for Best Song Elizabeth Morris Has Written to Date. Lines like “You want to see The Lion King/ I want to feel the light you bring” crush with their specific vs. universal dichotomy, and the way Morris surprises when she takes the word “strong” in the last two choruses make it a spare, beautiful masterpiece. The song highlights what she does best: baring her soul with a knowing grin, comforting with the cozy warmth, and doling out life lessons over hot cocoa.
It’s almost staggering how many songs Allo Darlin’ have in their catalog that achieve what “History Lessons” does, or at least come close to it. We Come from the Same Place has less of them than usual, but without a single misstep; it’s possible that these songs are just not as quick to completely reveal their greatness. Still, Morris and co. are three for three, comfortable in the songwriting tradition they are firmly a part of. We’d be best to heed her advice, study our history, know where they’re coming from. We might find what Morris suggests is true: that we indeed come from the same place.
Essential Tracks: “History Lessons”, “We Come from the Same Place”