From the first four chords of opener “Barcelona Daydream,” it’s easy to tell that The Aldgate, the debut EP by Berkeley, CA’s Local Hero, is going to be a pleasant affair. The band has a knack for undeniable pop hooks that echo throughout the EP’s 19-minute playing time, making for a light, breezy album just in time for the end of summer.
Much like their Southern California contemporaries The Smiles, Local Hero has captured the sound of summer with sing-alongs and catchy guitar-work that harkens back to the “golden era” of surf pop. Sunny guitar lines build to a ska rhythm on “Indoor Winters,” channeling the Afropop beats of preppy New York quartet Vampire Weekend. Local Hero alternates between the simple and the complex, from the bouncy, straightforward pop tune “The Cold Months” to “Press Box,” which shows them at their most dynamic. Here, the band experiments with the push and pull of restrained vocals and a combination of acoustic and electric instrumentation as vocalist Alex MacKay half-whispers, half-sings over the beach-y arrangements.
Unfortunately it’s these vocals that can also be the most disappointing part of The Aldgate. MacKay is often too hushed and soft-spoken, and while stronger vocalists have been able to turn this into their MO (see: the self-wallowing Chris Owens of Girls), MacKay lacks the bravado or confidence to pull off such a feat. Instead his airy voice regrettably lingers, sometimes lathered in too much reverb that threatens to undo the solid work of his lyrics or the instrumentals.
But that doesn’t mean this EP is without its moments: the Beach Boys-influenced “ooh-ooh” backing vocals, upbeat surf guitars, and overall pop sensibility all fit together perfectly to make this an easily enjoyable summer record. “Gold Coast” is the standout track here, combining the best elements of the ‘50s and ‘60s beach pop to make a nostalgic love song complete with handclaps and sha-la-la melodies. On The Aldgate, Local Hero proves that, when done right, some sounds can in fact be timeless.
We have The Aldgate streaming below. And according to the band’s Twitter, we can look forward to a music video in the near future.