Only Gone for a Spell
A lot has happened to psychedelic free spirits Alberta Cross since their 2009 debut. Of vocalist Petter Ericson Stakee’s own admission, after he and the band relocated to Los Angeles, the pressure of immediately delivering in the studio sent him to the breaking point. Healthy or no, he found his release in an industrial-strength kind of partying that plundered his newly-lavished bank account, sending him back to his native Sweden for some much-needed alone time. After realigning his chi, Ericson Stakee reconvened with rough-and-ready bassist Terry Wolfers to set up shop in New York, shorn of the band’s other members. Three years in the making, the pared-down duo’s labors can be heard in the band’s aptly-titled sophomore effort, Songs of Patience—a lushly atmospheric album that bubbles with life-affirming mysticism.
Marshaling their great skills at layering sound upon sound—as well as their penchant for grand, cathedral hall psychedelia—Alberta Cross at their best sound like the starry-eyed sister of The Verve, along with a few hearty flecks of Neil Young (as in “Crate of Gold,” especially). Big winners like “Life Without Warning” and the liberating title track, “Magnolia,” best characterize the album. The former, lavished with loping country guitar lines and pomped-up cellos, stretches out in an elegant haze. “Magnolia,” on the other hand, with its martial drumbeats and “come to God” countenance, guides the listener on an ecstatic ascent.
Patience isn’t all holy smoke, though. “Money for the Weekend (Pocket Full of Shame)” prostrates with sincere but silly lyrics, and the cloying “Ophelia on My Mind” does some to tarnish the temple’s hardware: Ericson Stakee sounds like a heliated Jack White for the song’s chorus, effectively compressing a man already known for his brassy highs to “Lollipop Guild” proportions.
But Alberta’s unique sound ultimately wins out. The hippie-dippie stomp of “I Believe in Everything” makes oneness with the universe seem possible, and the strangely-winning, candy-coated uplift of “Wasteland” sounds like Oasis covering Katy Perry. The album’s interchange between the probity of ’90s-era London rock and the band’s own unique “Yoda on ecstasy” spiritualism make for an affecting, if not spotless, listen. Songs of Patience, it’s safe to say, was largely worth the wait.