Although I’m a bit late to the party with this review, I’ve been soaking myself in “Born Losers,” the latest project from Altameda for several weeks now. Their first full-length album, “Dirty Rain,” originally caught our attention shortly after its release, and we were delighted to have the opportunity to hear them live as openers for The Sheepdogs at Jackson-Triggs (Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON) in 2019.
The subsequent years have brought changes to the group – for one thing, the quartet became a duo when Troy Snaterse (guitar/lead vocals) and Erik Grice (drums) chose to relocate to Toronto, while their compatriots Matthew Kraus (keyboards) and Todd Andrews (bass) decided to remain in their native Edmonton. This, along with the pandemic (which introduced the opportunity – or, rather, the requirement – to work remotely), has offered the band a chance to broaden their musical palette, while still remaining true to their core sound. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable album that delves deeply into loss and change.
About the project, Snaterse says, “Our newly released full-length album, Born Losers, is intended to play as a series of vignettes. Each song has its own story to tell, all of which feed into the overarching theme of downtrodden human experiences. Life is always bittersweet, even at its most awe-inspiring. And the intention of the album is to portray this dichotomy, in a plainspoken, and relatable way.”
“Dead Man’s Suit,” the album’s opener, might prompt the listener to think the duo has shifted permanently into dark, keyboard-driven sounds (accompanied by the always excellent string arrangements of Drew Jurecka) and away from Altameda’s signature bluesy rock, but “Neon (& That’s Why” shifts us to rootsy pop with Snaterse’s immediately identifiable voice sailing high.
Acoustic guitars and keyboards are prominent on this project, but there’s plenty of pedal steel in particular to connect back to Altameda’s previous work (and it certainly caught Martin’s ear on a recent road trip, as I knew it would). Background stylings that I can only compare to 1960s pop (in the best possible way) are sprinkled throughout – check out “I’m Here for You,” one of the album’s standout tracks, as an example. “Everybody’s Gotta Bleed” is definitely a throwback sonically to their earlier work but there’s just the tiniest bit of 1970s-style keyboards in the background to set this apart as a new listening experience, one that demonstrates the duo’s growth and willingness to experiment.
“In Time, They Say” closes the album – an anthemic piece that, for me, captures one of the lessons of the pandemic I’ve learned myself… that even when things seem darkest, life is still worth living and enjoying. “Born Losers” is an excellent addition to Altameda’s discography, and I look forward to hearing where they go next.