All the Times We Had by Ivan & Alyosha (Dualtone Records, 2013. 43 minutes)

Ivan & Alyosha is a Seattle band founded by lead singer, Tim Wilson, and lead guitarist, Ryan Carbary. Later, the band added Pete Wilson on bass and Tim Kim on guitar. Aside from All the Time We Had, the band has released multiple EPs.

In Search of a Masterpiece

We’ve all heard a masterpiece record. We might not agree on exactly what makes a masterpiece, but it always seems to transcend genre, each second contains pure gold. More than just a collection of songs, the album is a collective piece of art.

But how does an album become art? And how does a band attain a position where its songs can become art? Too often, bands search for the next hit song, eschewing an album as a whole for a collection of potential singles.

Some bands try to make it big with some hit songs before they moved toward the album as an art form, like The Beatles and Radiohead. Both began as accessible acts, crafting hit singles with frequent radio airplay.

Other bands start higher-brow and move toward accessible to increase a fan base. How often have you heard a die-hard fan proclaim such-and-such a band has sold out? They’ve done so, more than likely, because they need money. It doesn’t matter how talented you are; if you don’t have fans, you will cease to exist in the music industry.

For these reasons, there’s always a tension between gaining fans, keeping a consistent sound, and doing what you want to do musically as an art form.

With All the Times We Had, Ivan & Alyosha seem to be finding an identity in the middle ground between these sometimes opposite ideas.

To the Songs

Always a melody-driven, indie rock band, Ivan & Alyosha’s move to Dualtone Records and the subsequent release of their debut LP suggests a tightening of its signature sound. With predominant acoustic rhythms and lightly over-driven guitars, All the Times We Had proceeds hummingly.

The album’s first single, “Running for Cover,” defines the core of the Ivan & Alyosha sound. A four-on-the-floor drum beat offers the back bone for a heavily harmonic tune.

With harmonies akin to Fleet Foxes and music emitting shades of Beatles’ past, “Running for Cover” is the kind of song you could hear on alternative radio.

Similarly, “Be Your Man” offers an up-tempo style of song that feels at home on the stereo.

With lyrics sweetly cooing about a relationship most people would want, “Be Your Man” casts a wide net thematically.

In “The Fold”, perhaps my most favorite song on the record, a light guitar riff floats over a straightforward chord progression. When the chorus opens and Tim Wilson croons,

“Don’t you fall /when the mountain is high / when the river is wide,”

there is a sense of encouragement that spans any situation. If you need a pick-me-up, why not listen to a song like this one?

Do the Times We Had Equal A Masterpiece?

Taken together, All the Times We Had seems to reside further to the side of a collection of potential singles than it does a truly masterpiece of an album. Ivan & Alyosha has found a sound and they write good songs. My deepest hope is for them to gain the prolonged success needed to dive deeper into an art-driven oeuvre, perhaps similar to the path the Beatles took. I could see a masterpiece from this band.

But this desire should not be taken as a criticism of this record. All the Times We Had finds the difficult balance between accessibility, a defined sound, and an openness to create art. I look forward to more from this group!

Verdict: 4 out of 5

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