Thursday, January 27, 2011

Alex Nackman - This Revolution

Well, more than two years have passed since Alex Nackman released a new album. A pretty standard amount of time, but longer than normal from Alex’s normal mode of writing and releasing music on an almost annual basis. I’m a firm believer that a band should only put out a new album every 2-3 years. Yet, I realize this is a lot to ask for in our current music climate where songs/albums are listened to, digested, and discarded almost instantaneously. However, the time it takes to craft a good song can often take months in the making. Rushing things is rarely a good course of action. None of these songs sound rushed. In fact, they all seem well marinated.

Sonically, This Revolution isn't your typical Alex Nackman album either. Yeah, the catchy melodies are intact, but the songs have more depth and linger with you after the CD has stopped spinning (yes they still print CDs). If you're expecting the acoustic singer-songwriter songs of yesteryear (a la John Mayer, et al.) you'll just have to wait till the very end of the record to hear anything that resembles that previous song styling. No, what we have here is the "Alex Nackman Goes Elect(ronic)" record. Thankfully no one yells "Judas!" in between any tracks. But, you know this is going to be a different record when a rising wall of electric guitar distortion hits you immediately on the first track "Bodies Won't Stand". Oh yes. Let the rocking commence. Through various electric guitar FX, drum machines, and synths Alex channels U2, early Coldplay, and even a little Radiohead (to my ears at least).

The album as a whole is also more cohesive than previous efforts. While others weren’t disjointed per se, this one just feels tracked and paced exceptionally well. Moving from one song to the next seems like a natural progression. There aren’t any lulls that make you want to hit >>| or jolts that seem to come out of nowhere. In addition, there are a fair number of songs that immediately pull you in with either a really great drum groove, an interesting repeated melody line, or a combination of both. The rhythm section on this album, more than on any previous records, is really tight and locked into the heart of these songs. This Revolution turns out to be an appropriate title for it seems Alex has taken a great step forward with a significant transformation of his own.

Time for full disclosure: I’ve been lucky enough to call Alex a friend for almost 5 years now. During that period, I’ve seen him live a couple times (Here and Here) while I lived in L.A. and listened to pretty much everything he’s ever recorded and released. I’ve had a sneak peak at a few of these songs in the years prior, either at a show (“That song hasn’t been recorded yet!” see YouTube link below) or via email (“Nice…a rough cut…very cool”). “Holding Her” was sent to me via email almost 2 years ago. It included something I hadn’t previously heard in Alex’s music: an electronic/synth melody line. As I recall, I was pretty critical of the song in my reply to Alex. It sounded out of place, and not what I had come to know as his signature sound. If I had only known where he was headed, I would have kept my mouth shut and been more encouraging towards him to “explore the space” per se. But, I did think he had the makings of a great song on his hands.

Some of my favorite tracks are as follows. "N.Y." (Radiohead-ish electronic beat), "Aloud" (U2-ish quickly repeated echoey guitar line with soaring chorus), and "Last Night In Kyoto" (another great chorus surround by a catchy as hell melody). But, to be honest this album doesn't really have any clunkers. I know that many of these songs were in the works for well over two years and there is a whole album's worth of material that didn't make it onto this disc (maybe to be continued as: Le coup d'├ętat ?). Seriously, this is Alex's best work to date. Period. His growth as a songwriter and maturity are on full display. Not only that, you can hear that he's taking chances and branching out into directions that he hasn't previously. I implore you to listen to his music and support all his extremely hard work crafting great music.

Alex Nackman - "Aloud" (Troubadour. West Hollywood 3/28/2008)