One of the most beloved fairy tales in existence was created by Lewis Carroll many, many years ago. I’m talking, of course, about the story of Alice in Wonderland. The story follows the curiosity of a young girl, as she follows a white rabbit down a hole, being exposed to a world beyond anything she could ever imagine. It’s a story that is designed to teach you that it’s okay to be strange, to believe in the impossible because anything is possible, if only you dream it and believe it. It’s this theme that, loosely, ties to bilingual alternative rock band Allison Iraheta + Halo Circus and their debut album, Bunny. In fact, I was immediately reminded of that very story, upon seeing the flyer for their “Follow the Rabbit” tour, the first of its kind to be crowd-funded on the platform RoadNation. The reason that I tie this imagery to the band is because they are a band like none you’ve ever seen. Everything about them ties to the ideas embedded in their music. They have a strong message to spread and are incredibly devoted to seeing it happen. Before we go any further, yes, this is the same Allison Iraheta that rocked our world on Season 8 of American Idol and with her debut album, Just Like You in 2009. HC was created in a collaboration between Iraheta and multi-platinum musician/producer Matthew Hager (Duran Duran, Scott Weiland, Timbaland) in 2013. Since then, the band has gone on to play several high-profile shows, including a 4-week residency at Hotel Cafe’ in Hollywood. Additionally, they are praised by Duran Duran bassist (who has collaborated with them) as being “the best live band in the USA.” Now that you have a little background on the band, let’s jump into the world of Bunny.
Upon hearing the latin-infused, lead single “Desire (Lo Que Vale La Pena),” I knew there was something special about this band. The video is inspired by Iraheta’s proud Salvadoran heritage, and her childhood in L.A. You’ll see her walking through the streets of L.A. with a pageant-style sash marked “IMMIGRANT” as the band seeks to send a strong message to their listeners. On the song, Iraheta states that it’s about freedom. “Not the freedom we confuse for convenience, but the real freedom that is granted to every soul that enters a body on this planet. When one is oppressed, we are all oppressed. We are all born with the desire to love and the desire to defend it.” You can see that video below. Additionally, the band released it as a free download, via BitTorrent with an alternate version of “Guns In Our Hands,” which is a bit more stripped down than the album version. You can check that out here (must have a BitTorrent client, such as uTorrent to download it).
The first thing we hear, upon spinning this album, is a short, soulful intro track called “He Promises the Moon,” a play on how painful love can be. This transitions perfectly into “Nothing At All,” and the story of how a woman met a man who used her, left her and now sits broken. Iraheta is telling this individual that she knows what it’s like to start over, to have this thirst for someone to love her but that, in the end, you have to realize that you can only give yourself to someone who will treat you the way that you deserve to be treated. A beautiful instrumental section, rhythm especially, underlies this track and builds it up nicely.
There are 2 incredibly heart-felt tracks in Spanish on the album (“Yo Me Voy” and “Verdad”) which show the softer side of the band. Primarily led by piano, Iraheta uses her soothing, melancholy vocals to make sure that you feel every ounce of pain that she felt, while penning the lyrics. I would say that, even if you don’t speak the language, these are some of the highlights of the album. While the majority of the album uses its rock edge to kick you into gear, these 2 tracks are a nice change of pace.
“Guns in Our Hands” is another track that hits the listener hard. While the track creeps along at a nice, slow pace.. you’ll find yourself mesmerized by the lyrics that Iraheta sings. The vibe that surrounds this song can best be described as something that you’d expect to hear in an especially emotional scene in a movie or, alternatively, possibly in a lounge setting, complete with the older style microphones you’d see in the 50s and 60s. I get two meanings out of this but, as music should be, it could be left up to interpretation. For me, it’s either about escaping an addiction (or helping someone with one) or escaping an abusive relationship. “You come at me with guns in your hands, tell me to dance, sing your little lullaby and lay me to rest” Allison tearfully sings, signaling that she’s no longer afraid of the subject of this track, whatever it may be.
One of my favorite tracks on the album, without a doubt, is “Band-aid.” The subject of this track is pretty simple, everything we do in life to cope is nothing more than a short-term solution to a long-term problem. They’re telling the listener that we need to band together and figure out a way to fix the world. “Love songs are a bandaid, poetry’s a bandaid. We want a revolution, a short cut to solution. No, we really need a cure!” The chorus to this track perfectly sums up what it’s all about. What I love the most about it is the way that it builds up, musically. It has an odd sound to it, almost cacophonous but it’s a beautiful sound, when you take the time to really listen to it.
I could sit here and go on about each track on the album. I could tell you about why you should listen to this album and spoil all the nice little surprises they have in store for you. That’s not why I’m here, though. I’m here to give you my thoughts on the album and why, I feel, it’s a top contender for my album of the year. This is an album that is, clearly, meant to be listened to from front to back, rather than skipping tracks. So rare it is that you get an album like this and actually WANT to continue listening through. The bottom line is, though, Allison Iraheta + Halo Circus have made their mark on this world, begging for everyone to see the bigger picture. Join them, as they begin the next musical revolution and pick up your copy of Bunny, out now! Dates for their “Follow the Rabbit” tour are below, be sure to check them out live, as well!
“Desire (Lo Que Vale Le Pena)” (Official Music Video)
Halo Circus is:
Alison Iraheta – Vocals
Matthew Hager – Bass
Brian Stead – Guitar
Veronica Bellino – Drums