“All the Wars” by Aloha

37. Song No. 215: “All the Wars,” Aloha
Here Comes Everyone, 2004

“You’re alive / Thanks to a strange / Chain of events… “

I’m not even halfway done listening to the “A” songs yet and I’m already worried about blowing my load on all these bands I love before I get to the songs that really make my heart go pitter-pat. But spending time with songs that were “just” blending into the context of strong top-10-desert-island-record contenders and getting to know their unique shape and weight has been the best surprise consequence of isolating them from their natural surroundings so far. Getting to know something I loved first for its purpose now for its intrinsic merit is a new perspective I didn’t know I could get from a song I’ve been listening to but not really hearing for 15 years.

Aloha is yet another gift that keeps on giving I can trace back to the college radio station’s bin of duplicate CDs, which I’m realizing I was eerily adept at plundering for gold. Sugar was my introduction (and forever my sentimental favorite) but Here Comes Everyone is inextricably intertwined with it.

I’ve never written about music before because I just don’t have the vocabulary to do it as accurately as I want to. And it pisses me off that I don’t know how to describe the effect that the ethereal, moody and immersive instrumentalization of both this album and its utterly perfect predecessor has, or how that melodic otherworldliness perfectly complements the lyrics’ awed and raw honesty. There has to be a word that succinctly expresses how chill and lush and unassuming and blossoming peak Aloha is, but I don’t know it.

Grounding gossamer music to infinitely relatable but reverently poetic lyrics might be my favorite take on making the sublime ordinary and the mundane transcendent all at once, and I do know that Aloha does it the best. There is never a time when I don’t want to listen to this band, though no matter how many albums they release or how much I love them no matter where their evolution goes, Aloha will forever be best represented by my two favorite albums of theirs. Their first four full-length albums mostly preserve the sound I wish all music could be; I think Home Acres signaled the sea change but is still their most accessible album while Little Windows Cut Right Through is an animal all its own (there are albums that sound like a cohesive but distinctly progressing thing and there are albums that sound like they’re sustaining one LP-length song, and that one’s absolutely the latter for me).

Sugar might be my favorite album of theirs but Here Comes Everyone sounds like an extension and evolution of it, so it’s not at all a distant second. “All the Wars” is the perfect welcome home bridging the time between the two, quietly unrolling so many of the recurring elements that make Aloha one of my all-time favorites. It might be purely sentimental bias because those albums were my first exposure to this band that I love so much, or maybe that introduction also established a certain expectation. But that’s my own emotional correlation; the album still has to stand on its own merit, or at least make a case for its place within the band’s catalog.

So much depends on the first song of an album, so why not just throw down some creation themes from the outset? This song starts out with not the miracle of life but the improbable odds of not-death in the face of a world that wants to kill you all the time (which, come on, has only become more of a certainty than a thesis the deeper we go into the gaping maw of this insatiable timeline), the paradox of survival both among and assisted by destruction, and a musical breakdown ultimately yielding the lucky you, invisibly but inarguably protected by the forces of life that cocoon you from the same horrors that stubbornly but fruitlessly conspired to keep you from showing up in the first place.

I wouldn’t have sat down with this song and explored the nuances of its terrain without reshuffling my musical library letting it be more than just set dressing stabilizing an album that, honestly, I love because it reminds me of an album I love slightly more. Not much from Here Comes Everyone really stood out as an individual song before, and there is something magical about rediscovering something you’ve loved for a decade and a half. It’s a magic that defies language, because some things just need to be felt.

And tell me that “I’m alive / After a time / Of riots and rides” and “They could have snapped but they showed you mercy” aren’t some of the most hopeful thoughts this bleak-as-fuck timeline needs right now. I think more people actively respecting the delicacy of life and how lucky we are to be here for however long we have would do wonders for society.

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