Do yourself a favor and break away from the daily grind for half an hour and listen to Left Alone’s latest album Harbor Area. Lead vocalist and guitarist Elvis Cortez takes the reigns for an eleven track storyteller’s journey through his life. The iconic ska punk melodies that fans of Left Alone have come to know and love are in full effect, so be sure not to miss a beat.
If these songs are a window into Elvis’ life, it’s apparent he has learned many lessons since he first formed Left Alone in 1996. Harbor Area vividly relate stories of broken hearts, local turmoil, and life on tour proving his life wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Compared to the band’s last self-titled release in 2009 Harbor Area is significantly shorter. Several tracks are slowed down a notch, shifting away from energetic street punk and carrying a more somber tone. This technique not only adds depth, but switches things up enough between the faster tracks to keep things interesting.
The story begins with the album’s title track “Harbor Area,” a dark and fast-paced depiction of violent turmoil in Cortez’s hometown. Shifting the topic but keeping up the speed, “Leather Bound Book” is a read into Elvis’ disconnection from his former love life. Keeping with the love theme, “Gone” sheds a spotlight on his depression with ballad style riffs. Another storytelling song, “Day By Day” chronicles the life changes made on tour away from his loved ones. Elvis’ positive spin on touring meshes well with the upbeat style, and provides a good lead into the next track. “Better Tomorrow” slows down the pacing, complete with harmonica, and proves Elvis is still trying to improve his life. This somber tune in particular really spotlights Pablo Fiasco’s skills on the organ.
Hopefully by now you’ve caught your breath, because “New World Order” picks the speed back up and is full of anti-government ideals. Stories of Facebook friends and taxation may at first seem an odd pairing, but when Elvis stands behind a cause, he sticks with it. When you’re not wasting your time on Facebook what better way to spread your rebellious message than heading to the entertainment capital of the world, “Hollywood?” Elvis makes it obvious that he isn’t making music for the money and in “Punk Rock Life” he puts everything on the line, consequences be damned. The song teaches that carving your own path with the punk rock lifestyle may sometimes be tough, but dedication can pay off. Following this catchy tune, Left Alone slows it down once again.
Stepping on the toes of political leaders is sure to end with some “Broken Promises,” But in this down-to-earth love story ballad, Left Alone provides an organ-filled acoustic trip down memory lane. Suddenly “Far Away” kicks the album back into high gear, suggesting yesterday is nothing more than a memory. Harbor Area ends with the street punk style track “Malcontent,” but left this writer feeling anything but. There’s no doubt Elvis’ DIY lifestyle may have been tough, but it makes for one hell of a story through this album.
Overall the anecdotal approach is unique, and takes listeners through a unique chunk of Elvis’ roller coaster of a life. There are plenty of sections where tracks seamlessly flow together, but sudden changes in tempo are still noticeable. Harbor Area feels like a fantatic new addition to Left Alone’s expanding catalog. If you are a fan of the band’s previous work and want to learn a little more about their backstory, Harbor Area is essential listening. But if you liked the angst-y and energetic style of Left Alone’s self-titled album, you might be in for a surprise.