Wednesday, 26 August 2009

REVIEW: Alejandra O'Leary - Nothing Out Loud

For some listeners, singer-songwriters can blur into one another very easily....especially when one attends a local free venue for more than a few hours, watching the performances come and go. An acoustic guitar and a voice can form a particularly limited weapon when faced with a loud, indifferent crowd.

Thankfully, Alejandra O'Leary has more than enough firepower in her musical arsenal to not only take the good fight to the masses, she'll also have little trouble winning the so called 'battle for hearts & minds'.

On new album 'Nothing Out Loud', the (recently uprooted from NYC) Ann Arbor-based singer-songwriter takes the stripped down versions of her acoustic numbers, adds a subtle keyboard line here, some delicate percussion there, and polishes them up until they positively sparkle.

The initial impression is made by O'Leary's vocal, which effectively mixes the melody of mainstream songstresses with the more quirky leading ladies of indie-folk....anywhere from Liz Phair to even Lykke Li.....maybe it's all the L's? On songs such as upbeat opener Ever After and Rally, her voice is front and centre delivering lovelorn yet wearily hopeful musings on matters of the heart.

It's further in, however, on songs like the hypnotically intricate
Tremor, that the singing drops deeper in both tone and the mix, allowing winding keys and understated percussion to the fore. Offering an alternative to the more uptempo numbers, songs like this nestle up comfortably to their neighbours and afford the album a pleasant variety for repeat listens.

MP3: Alejandra O'Leary - Ever After
MP3: Alejandra O'Leary - Tremor
Taken from the album 'Nothing Out Loud' - out now - BUY

Myspace / @alejandraoleary / LastFM

Though at times the more impacting songs - which are far in the majority - can dwarf those that lack their memorable lyrics or instrumentation, this is a small price to pay for the soulful pleas of a song like Rally. Demanding an intervention to rekindle ailing romance as it does ("There's a battle in here / And I never want to fight it again / I want you to rally my heart & then win"), the song marries the direction of much of O'Leary's lyrical focus on Nothing Out Loud to the upbeat tone that is a regular charm of the album.

Listening to the two songs posted here gives a sound base for comparing the various speeds at which this album drives, showcasing all the cautious optimism and fragile emotion that continue to appear across the album. One of the more skillful aspects of the songwriting - and one that is apparent after only a couple of spins - is the ability to fuse the two somewhat contrasting sentiments together as though it were the only natural way to approach the subject of loving relationships.

In achieving this blend, Alejandra O'Leary has delivered a charismatic, varied album that delivers on many levels. Also something of a gigging machine, she will be hitting a number of cities in North America towards the end of the year. So as you sit in that aforementioned venue and ponder whether it's worth persevering with another set, just remember that someone like Alejandra might pop up to make it all worthwhile.

Now playing: Volcano Choir - Island, IS
via FoxyTunes

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