Paloalto: Heroes and Villains (American)

There is also no shortage of lushness throughout the disc’s 12 tracks

Although Paloalto’s truly amazing self-titled debut CD never quite reached the level of mass recognition and popularity that it deserved, it did earn itself a legion of fans, including many from within the often overly critical music industry. Scott Weiland, who became aware of Paloalto when they were the opening act on 2000’s Stone Temple Pilots tour, called them a “beautiful lush adventurous pop hybrid,” and Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath appropriately referred to their debut as the “first brilliant record of the new millennium.” Perhaps the most important and influential Paloalto fan, however, is legendary producer Rick Rubin, who was impressed enough with the band’s unfinished demo to sign them to his American Recordings label, then subsequently produced both their debut in 2000, and their just-released sophomore effort, Heroes and Villains.

Their music has often been compared to bands like Radiohead and U2, both in terms of songwriting and the moody, soaring falsetto quality of vocalist James Grundler. Although the quartet hails from California, their style sounds much more European than American, making them one of the current American “buzz” bands of British music publications—not surprising, considering that Paloalto cites groups like Pink Floyd and the Catherine Wheel as major influences. However, their music delves significantly into their own individual territory, evoking a more melodic, modern psychedelic aura that is simultaneously gently refreshing and mysteriously dark.

There is also no shortage of lushness throughout the disc’s 12 tracks, which sound increasingly better with every listen. The first single, the edgy “Fade Out/In” has proven to be more than just ideal for the radio airwaves; it was also featured on the Daredevil soundtrack and is currently being used in the commercial promo for the new Fox television series The O.C. Both “Breathe In” and “Hangmen” could have easily been found on Radiohead’s The Bends and are equally strong contenders for the role of potential second single. “What You Are” shows off Florian Reinert’s fine drumming skills with its syncopated, driving beat, and “Sleeping Citizens” features some beautiful contributions from a string section, complementing the melody without overpowering it.

As they did on their first CD, Paloalto saved the best and most epic-sounding song for last. “Seed” is a multilayered, soaring, guitar-laced, hypnotic piece of music that leaves the listener wanting more—precisely what a truly great song should do.

Grundler states in the band’s bio that Heroes and Villains was created during a time of many changes and questions within the group, as they attempted to figure out exactly where the band stood. “Every song is therapeutic in a different way and tells stories to help work out our inner demons,” he says. “We are a strong band now. You can hear it in the music, we are more of a unit.” It is that highly evident feeling of strength and unity on this CD that should elevate Paloalto to the forefront of popular notice, where it belongs.

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