Alexa Melo – by Alexa Melo
Album review by Hannah of www.rockmycommute.com
This is the self-titled debut album for a remarkable young lady, with huge cynical eyes and a big voice. “Still Right Here” has a song title that sounds like it should be on a reunion tour instead of a debut album, but it is a great album opener in that it immediately sets the tone for what Alexa Melo is capable of delivering on the rest of the CD. She starts out confidently – her voice an intriguing vocal blend of Natalie Imbruglia, Ellie Goulding, and Jewel – sometimes evoking the Sunday’s lead singer or even Joanna Newsom at times. Lush, minor-keyed guitars create a big, almost magical and echoey sound under dramatic lyrics calling “got to change your evil ways”… Her bio on her website says “Alexa Melo is intense”, and that is exactly the feeling I get when experiencing this album, start to finish.
The website bio goes on to describe her music writing history, as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a true alternative calling – even in the midst of popular musical styles that are anything BUT alternative. This multi-instrumental effect is very evident in the second track – there are also various sampled vocal effects that give this a modern feel, over a beat that is dancey yet slow at the same time. Track #3 features cool violin sounds over a trip-hop background. Alexa’s vocals can intensify to a wrenching height at times, like a desperate character in a theatrical musical, and reminding me of some of Sia’s heartfelt and heartbreaking vocal performances that thankfully have broken through onto mainstream radio.
The next track opens with a little Hendrix influence that is fun; before merging into a White Stripes-inspired chorus, with lyrics squeaked in a style not unlike Tegan and Sara’s “Walking With A Ghost”. Track #5 slows down a bit, reminding us that Alexa has experienced and is inspired by a sassy 90s girl musical history rich in influences. She reveals a prettier voice on “Push-Pull”; which I will describe as an intimate and emotional piece that includes the sound of church bells providing a dissonant clash – this could be a sad movie soundtrack feature, or a thoughtful Tori Amos song.
I’ll admit that by Track #6 the wealth of sound sampling and cacophony of creative instrumentation was giving me a bit of sensory fatigue – the diversity of sounds was giving me a bit of a buzzy headache, so the more Paramore-esque “Should Have Been A Flirt” was a welcome relief. The style of each song is different from the others, yet something is always the same – again the intensity is the common theme uniting the eleven songs and creating a comprehensive mood. There isn’t a single feel-good song on the list!
Track #8 features more piano – and again the comparisons just continue to come to mind. Birdy, Sara Bareilles, Leona Lewis… all of these voices help me describe Alexa, but here they represent just elements or facets of the overall sound that is all her own. The creativity continues right through the end of the album, bringing in some jazzy horn on the 10th song (“Under Your Skin”) and rolling into a big noisy finale for the closing piece.
While the music is raw, emotional, artistic, and edgy – it is not fast or catchy. This would be the kind of live concert performance that you could comfortably sit through to appreciate. You notice the vocal quality, the careful execution, the selected instruments, and the dramatic lyrics more than how the music brightens your mood or makes you want to rock. I appreciate Alexa because she is so different from other artists I have stumbled across, but the whole album is a bit much for me to take in all at once. A carefully crafted mix or playlist might best highlight each song’s individual style and purpose, while a live performance might best demonstrate Alexa’s talent and ability. It is abundantly clear here that Alexa has something different to offer than other female artists of her generation – I’d even call her a potentially bigger, badder Taylor Swift that should prove to be a musical force to recon with for performances and releases yet to come.