Alamode: Swell

by Paul Whyte

Between 2015 and 2016 a hybrid band formed in Duluth between members of the soul and funk group, Big Wave Dave & The Ripples, and the indie pop rock group, The People Say Fox. The band known as Play Date was met with general enthusiasm no doubt due to the band already having a bit of a fan base from other projects but also the fact that their sound was fairly unique for the area. There aren’t a whole lot of original bands playing dance worthy smooth and sexy pop with undeniable groove in the Twin Ports. 

Play Date was gaining in popularity and then something unexpected happened. The band received a cease and desist order from another act that already was called Play Date. It was probably for the best that this hurdle was crossed early on for the band because it would have been awkward to have released and printed a full length album just to find out that distributing it could lead to legal action. The band changed its name to Alamode and it didn’t take long for the name to catch on and for things to keep going for them. 

The band includes Nathan Holte on vocals, Peter Knutson on guitar, Alex Piazza covers bass and synth, Ned Netzel take on most of the keys, and Rio Daugherty handles the drums. The band has been playing regularly for the past couple of years and their debut album “Swell” is the culmination of the material they’ve been working on in that time. 

If there’s one thing about this album, it’s that it stays consistent in its overall feel. Yes, the groove stays on point with backing instruments that in every way comes across as professional studio work. The mix between the synths and funky guitar parts make this material sound like some lost pop band from the 80s. Of course they manage to have a contemporary presence that puts a stamp on their own sound. 

The main focus of the songs rests on Nathan Holte’s vocals. From both these recordings to his performances on stage, it’s all about the delivery and he nails it. Lyrically, all the songs end up being kind of similar. Most of the songs deal with a love interest, but all is not well. There’s definitely some turmoil in what’s playing out than these being just love songs. The driving themes rest on sexual tension and relationship complications. This isn’t to say that the songs aren’t still fun and upbeat. There’s no getting around that the band as a whole has sexy dance worthy music dialed down from the bass lines to guitar solos. Of course there’s some smooth ballads like the track “Still Invited” thrown in here and there as well. 

In their single “Meta Medication” that has been getting some airplay on stations like The Current, “And once again there’s nothing I can prove to you / Even though in my own mind I was the best for you / Eyes to eyes we paralyzed the lie to buy us some time / Where did you go? / I thought you were mine.”

Overall, I think for people who like artists and bands like Prince or Phoenix, this music should be pretty easy to get into. While some of the lyrics do touch on the some of the rocky points of relationships or hooking up, they aren’t overly emotional by any means. I could see how some might find this material to be a little cheesy and over the top, but on the other hand, that’s where it has its appeal. To expect anything other than some fun music with tight playing and solid vocals would just be missing the point. Alamode’s next show will be on Valentine’s Day at Blush in Duluth. 

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