The Darlings of Uke-Pop
On ‘We Come from the Same Place,’ Allo Darlin’ continues to find inspiration in four strings
After their breakthrough second album—which earned huge praise from Pitchfork, USA Today, and many others—Allo Darlin’ had to face a question that plagues most successful young bands: Is it better to make a dramatic shift in sound and risk alienating fans, or build upon what has already been widely embraced and be accused of playing it safe? Fortunately, on its third album, the quartet didn’t abandon its wistful pop sensibilities, sincere lyricism, or the instrument that started it all: the ukulele.
Allo Darlin’ formed in 2008, a few years after Elizabeth Morris left her native Australia and arrived in London, where she bought a ukulele from the Duke of Uke shop in Brick Lane. Morris wrote the majority of Allo Darlin’s eponymous 2010 debut album on ukulele, crafting indie-pop inspired by mid-’90s bands such as Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura. Morris’ bandmates added jangly guitars and sharp percussion (including plenty of handclaps), but it was her ukulele and her urgent, heartfelt lyrics that ultimately distinguished Allo Darlin’s sound. The band grew sonically on 2012’s Europe, and, as a result, Morris’ ukulele mostly served as background melody, though her stripped-down uke ballad “Tallulah” was the album’s emotional apex.
It’s a similar, steady progression on We Come from the Same Place, which opens with Morris’ delicate ukulele strumming on “Heartbeat.” Once again, the uke serves as the emotional anchor on “History Lessons,” a ballad that teems with love, loss, and nostalgia, as well as the closer, “Another Year,” a country-tinged love song. And like their previous two albums, this one is a grower, as the songs depict a kinder, simpler world that’s a respite from real life.