Review at a glance
t’s a shame the jukebox musical scene has been sewn up by old giants such as Queen and ABBA, because it seems like Half Alive would have some excellent ideas. The Californian trio first grabbed attention in 2018 with the video for their slick indie funk single Still Feel, which revealed Josh Taylor to be a mesmerising dancer every bit as much as he is a singer and has now been watched 70 million times on YouTube.
They came up with new ways to present the trick in live performances on Jimmy Kimmel’s chat show and one of NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concerts, with additional dancers Jordan Johnson and Aiden Carberry having equal involvement alongside drummer Brett Kramer and bassist J Tyler Johnson.
Last month the video for a new single, Did I Make You Up?, came across like a new scene from Matilda the Musical, with an army of dancers in school uniform jumbling arms and legs around Taylor. So it almost feels like you’re missing a big part of the picture if you sit down with their second album and no visual accompaniment.
Even so, there’s plenty to keep you occupied, with 18 songs whizzing past in a blur of digitised vocal shimmer, crisp drum patterns and disco funk glitter. Its length doesn’t seem to be because they have a grand concept or require the space for experimentation.
There may have been record company politics going on behind the scenes. The band originally announced that their second album would come in two parts and be called Give Me Your Shoulders. Everything from Give Me Your Shoulders Pt.1, which arrived in February, is here, but the rest of this must be something different from whatever Pt.2 would have been. Even so, lots of appealing content for those all-important streaming clicks.
There aren’t many obvious showstopper moments, though Move Me’s journey from sweet piano notes to an arena-sized climax will prick up the ears. Instead they show pop consistency, with a strong melodic ability and plenty of quirky electronic touches on top of the old indie band format. Think of them as an American version of The 1975 or Bastille.
Never Been Better, which notices that the expression doesn’t necessarily mean you’re feeling good, and the nightclub thud of Bad Thoughts, suggest that things are far from peachy in Half Alive Land. But the sounds are summery, the pace rarely dips and it’s surely inevitable that the listener will end up feeling like dancing.