Familiarity can begin to work against a band by their third album, but Allo Darlin‘ revel in the challenge on We Come From the Same Place. The English-Australian indie-pop quartet’s songs are still winsome and piercingly observed, still accented with ukulele and pedal steel and, yes, still reminiscent of Belle and Sebastian or Camera Obscura. But they’re also rawer and more intimate. Looser, more in-the-moment production brings the songs a fierce urgency it’s easy to imagine carrying over to live-show sing-alongs, while the lyrics downplay past albums’ pop-culture allusions to focus in on frontwoman Elizabeth Morris’s increasingly particular lyrical obsessions.
The result is an album that uses an unmistakable scrawl to describe new vistas, like a postcard from an old friend. The tour-honed full-band interplay, especially on uptempo songs like the road anthem “Kings and Queens,” brings a frenzy that’s novel for Allo Darlin’. And where 2010′s outstanding debut album amped up its superbly catchy new-love vignettes with lyrical references to Weezer and Johnny Cash, and the richer follow-up, 2010′s Europe, used allusions to the Silver Jews or the Maytals to help jog the narrator’s memory of halcyon days, here the mentions of The Lion King, Joan Didion or Auto-Tune on the radio are mere details: humdrum fabric in the songs’ own vibrant tapestries.
Newly married and newly Italy-based, Morris acknowledges on “Santa Maria Novella” feeling like a “tourist” and the risk of being “corny.” But it has always been her fresh-eyed perspective, combined with her willingness to take the chance of raising eyebrows, that helps her songs hit an emotional sweet spot. That’s still true here — even when she’s gleefully embodying a stalker-ish figure out of hometown lore on “Half Heart Necklace,” a deceptively creepy standout. Meanwhile, the album’s best songs, “Crickets in the Rain” and “History Lessons,” both ruminate on a theme Morris has described as “anti-nostalgia.” To Allo Darlin’, this concept doesn’t mean rejecting the old all together; the billowing title track imagines a shared, communal past, and the defiantly sunny “Bright Eyes” is only a more freewheeling entry in a history of male-female duets that goes back to the first song on the band’s first album. Rather, “anti-nostalgia” to Allo Darlin’ means, as Morris told Wondering Sound, embracing the present — living more in the now. Allo Darlin’ avoid an LP No. 3 curse not by tacking on new bells and whistles, but by more fully giving us themselves.