Imaad Wasif and Russell Pollard may not be imitating Elliot Smith, but as Alaska! their music reveals that they've spent extensive time in the company of his work. Wasif resembles Smith in voice enough to be his animal familiar, murmuring Valium-folk resignations that fall like listless autumn sunbeams across the scarred wooden floor of an empty room. The band's latest release, Emotions, occasionally has a breeziness that recalls the dippier folk rock of the '60s, employing jaunty banjo licks and the sort of bombastic bounce that could aptly accompany a walking shot of Arlo Guthrie waving his freak flag. "Resistance" could have been culled from the soundtrack of "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" if the film was set in the Yukon Territory during the Gold Rush. Still, all of this queer folkiness remains grounded by the dense gravity of the lyrics and their delivery; even when "Love" launches into its Westerbergian stomp, Wasif seems intent on propelling you away from your conditioned response.
Alaska! is not a well-known act by any stretch of the imagination, and it seems fair to predict that the duo will remain well under the radar. If you're a fan of Sebadoh, Folk Implosion or the dear, departed Elliot Smith, you'll consider yourself lucky to have been let in on the secret, and lovers of the Red Aunts will enjoy seeing the talented Lesley Ishino behind the drums for the band on this tour.