A fully-formed talent at the first attempt – as rare as it is welcome.
Daniel Ross 2010
Allo Darlin’ is the performing name of the lovely and warming Elizabeth Morris (and accomplices), who moved to London from Australia in 2005. A few musical endeavours and quiet attempts at songwriting later, and she has become a new staple of London’s indie-pop carousel thanks to her prowess at crafting simple but thoroughly affecting and mature songs on the ukulele. If anything, it seems that the instrument’s pick-up-and-play accessibility has made the songs exactly that – accessible. Simplicity results in a clear, emotional and whimsical album. It’s almost too easy to call it twee.
Morris is affectionate to the city that bore the album, but constantly aware that there’s much more in the world to discover. The album’s most bittersweet moment, Let’s Go Swimming, goes beyond that inevitable twee tag to reveal something more plainly affecting. She beautifully describes a lake in Sweden and then reels off a list of London stereotypes that couldn’t possibly compare to it. “All of the hipsters in Shoreditch could never style it,” is the line that rings most truthfully here, but the whole song is lovingly rendered, caked in gliding slide guitar and feathery bass. A special recording.
Though inevitable comparisons to fellow Aussies The Lucksmiths and The Go-Betweens will undoubtedly accompany Allo Darlin’ wherever they are heard, they are possessive of something quite different to those bands. Having hailed partly from another country and inhabited London so roundly and fully (or so it sounds), they have the benefit of being able to step back from these locales and comment more widely on those themes of loneliness and inability to fit in.
The boldest of those themes, perhaps, is a sense that their professional endeavours are futile when they could be earning a packet doing something else. Not that you’d be worried about when they’re making it sound so wonderfully bright and easy. Kiss Your Lips is the twee template executed perfectly. Weighing up lyrical unease with musical joie de vivre is a sure-fire way to involve the listener, and the struggle of part-time musicians it ably references rings true.
Between the bounce of the lighter numbers and the ache of the sweet ones, there’s all manner of winningly realistic insights veiled underneath the music. This debut is a joy from beginning to end, a fully-formed talent at the first attempt – as rare as it is welcome.