Iska Dhaaf – Even the Sun Will Burn

written by: March 8, 2014
Album-art-for-Even-the-Sun-Will-Burn-by-Iska-Dhaaf Release Date: March 11, 2014


On Even the Sun Will Burn, Seattle-based two-piece Iska Dhaaf has crafted a hyper-palatable stream of alternative pop. Their sound engages by playing on melodies that are a bit pre-digested, but classic nonetheless.

The pair has the key to a tool box full of properly honed implements used to craft a stylistic menagerie of tunes: they excel at listenability, have keen ears for atmosphere, and structure movements in a way that keep the ear engaged. These assets contribute to a well-rounded sound, but still find Iska Dhaaf playing it on the safe side.

Tracks such as “General Malaise” and “Everybody Knows” feature straightforward rock beats that gallop with precision. Performed by drummer Benjamin Verdoes, they act as backbone to carry the melodies through punk and electro territories that reverberate like a more solidified shoegaze.

The subdued moments leave room for us to breathe and take in melody while the gritty bits use synthesizers and tempo swings to escort us through intelligently textured songs. Those qualities wouldn’t make Sun out of place on your FM tuner.

Vocalist Nathan Quiroga has penned his share of clever and wit-dipped lyrics: “Nothing’s changed/not even my laundry/Won’t come clean/Wash your hands of me,” he sings on “Same Indifference,” bolstered by wavering strings that slide into a layered crescendo that creeps forth as if from underwater.

Throughout Sun, the players toe the experimental line, but never really seem to butt up against it.

The record isn’t soft; Iska Dhaaf fashions a sharp edge with its capacity to meld open, ambient passages with flashes of overdriven rock, but still never steps out of bounds.

On “Everybody Knows,” the industrial-leaning, post-punky verses are reminiscent of Interpol’s stylings, and the angular guitar and bass interplay on the opening track, “All the Kids,” rolls along a bit like Bloc Party; while Iska Dhaaf keeps it spruced up and moving along, certain moments–like the instrumental, guitar-laden breaks in “Rumi”–can come off as passively unabrasive.

However, the pair does craft a sound that evades easy categorization. From the upbeat, twinkly melody of “Two Ones”–which in an unexpected way contains some Fleet Foxes undertones–to the album’s debut single, “Sullen Eyes,” which boasts fuzzy organ and bass that texture the track with a 1960s spinning-ink-on-projector vibe, Iska Dhaaf manages to compartmentalize its sound into a handful of shifting characterizations.

“Happiness,” the rightful centerpiece of the record, anchors itself unbudgingly in our minds with verses that escalate the listener to a state of expectancy and deliver memorable choruses that employ a Beatles-esque walk-down resolution. There’s more than a hint of Death Cab for Cutie’s emotional method acting shining through, too.

While it doesn’t necessarily pack a vetted, soul-baring punch, Quiroga’s well-rounded performance boasts an aptitude for range and sure-footedness.

He doesn’t shy away from the throaty heights that less confident singers might cheat their way through.

Iska Dhaaf certainly doesn’t hesitate to leave a song untamed. Sashaying from one style to the next does broaden the appeal of the songwriting, but inadvertently serves to leave Even the Sun Will Burn yearning for a step out of line, at least once in a while.

True to what might be its conceptual message–”Iska Dhaaf” is Somali for “letting go”–the duo has produced a cathartic record by re-imagining a good deal of established hooks that, while often cautious and unchallenging, provide an accessible pop sensibility. Though not wholly daring, Iska Dhaaf does cultivate some angst on Sun. This tension finds its relief in upbeat strides that will doubtless earn the duo fans in the myriad corners of the alternative rock multiverse.

Iska Dhaaf – Even the Sun Will Burn tracklist:

  1. “All the Kids”
  2. “Everybody Knows”
  3. “Two Ones”
  4. “Dependency”
  5. “Same Indifference”
  6. “Sullen Eyes”
  7. “Happiness”
  8. “Sleepwalkers”
  9. “General Malaise”
  10. “Moonless Night”
  11. “Rumi”
  12. “Even the Sun”