Sasha Bell did the impossible at her album release party for “Love is Alright”: she made the Badlander habitable. Gone were the frat bros, the woo girls (fine, there was one woman who woo-ed between each sound check, but she was an outlier), the stray PBR cans and aggressive music. Bell and her opener, Motorhome, were greeted by actual adults, enjoying a concert without disrupting those around them — even accommodating the young woman dancing interpretively with her whole body. Try interpretive dancing at Dead Hipster and see who respects your personal space. I dare you.
“Love Is Alright” begins with such infectious positivity, it’s hard to imagine moshing to it. Instead, it inspires the listener to sway, relax and love thy neighbor. Its genre fluctuates from experimental indie to psychedelic in a cohesive story: the album takes us to Wonderland, but knows when we need to come up for air. The vibrant, rosy melodies keep a smile on our face, but know when to remind us of the music’s gravity.
The set began with the titular song, “Love is Alright,” boasting a classic upbeat melody that still maintains a certain tensity that keeps you listening. That same intensity carries throughout the album. “Love Is Alright” is like the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” of music: It presents itself as buoyant and upbeat, but the more you listen, the more complexity and strength you find.
One part Flaming Lips and two parts “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Candy Mountain” is perfect for your next acid trip. At the same time, songs like “Castle Keep” and “Sparrow” will kickstart your morning with melodic hooks more familiar in indie pop. Whether you’re looking for inspirational background music for a study session or a gathering with your hippie commune, “Love Is Alright” has a little something for everyone.
Bell’s music may be light and cheerful tonally, but the lyrics tell a more complicated story. “Icy Hands,” for example, examines the complicated relationship between siblings. With lyrics like, “I’ve been walking in your valley,” and, “I’m sorry to say that times have changed. You’re a selfish, selfish boy,” Bell reminds us again that despite her saccharine aesthetic, she is a force to be reckoned with.
While the lyrics oscillate between light and heavy subject matter on an emotional scale, the music doesn’t darken until late in the album. “Molly’s Got a Talent” and “Lemonade” lend themselves to a sultry tone, shifting somewhat from indie pop to indie rock, expressing a darker maturity in the album’s second half.
The album wraps up with “The Library.” The song is filled with distorted guitar and enough layers of sound effects to give me a little anxiety, sandwiching the “Sgt. Pepper’s” psychedelia we heard in “Candy Mountain.” “The Library” is the darkest the album gets tonally, and ends with 20 seconds of silence. The gradual darkening in tone reminds us of growing up and coming of age. The silence ends the album the same way most hero journeys end: with peace.
Sasha Bell’s new album is a beautifully original musical story, filled with optimism, sadness, and above all, emotional triumph. It would be easy to put on “Love Is Alright” and dance your heart out, trip balls or just tidy up your kitchen. No shame in doing any and all of those options; they all sound like good times. But a little time and focus on Bell’s lyricism proves most rewarding after all.
You can grab “Love Is Alright” at any of Missoula’s local record shops or on Soundcloud.