Album Review: Alex Bloom – Blue Room (NewMusicFriday Ep 19 Winner)

You voters decided you wanted this one, so gosh darnit I’ll give it to you. Alex Bloom is a pop singer songwriter who will earn acclaim with fans of folks like Ben Folds or Ben Rector. There’s a colorful artistry to the album that pulls you right in. If you’re a fan of glowing harmonies and literally “sing-songy” tracks, this album will make you happy.

The opener “Eyes in the Back of Her Head” is a glowing pop song that uses minor chords liberally. I am not a trained musicologist, but I hear a lot of jazz influence in this and would love to see how much of the track is based in a sort of Leonard Bernstein pop training. That said, the lead vocal is really solid and rolls along nicely with the rest of the track.

The second track “I don’t know you” is the one that won this review. It’s the most like Ben Folds on the album, complete with some really fascinating notational choices that take the song into these extensive minor spaces. I can’t imagine being able to “hear” a song like this before writing it. There are shades of the classic (trailblazing) band Chicago and even the innovation of Elton John. This is a superb track that deserves accolades beyond what we can possibly give here.

The following “Change Your Mind” is a bit more contemplative, presenting some well-developed lines at the opening that feel like a plaintive discussion of the future. The style puts me in mind of something from musical theater, at times building with grandiose layered vocals, while other times deliberately keeping the space small. It’s a multi-level, variably textured piece that keeps me coming back with more questions than answers. There are sleighbells. I mean, seriously. It’s complex and rewarding.

“One More Shot” trades in the piano for an acoustic guitar and a nice steady beat. It feels more like a mid 90s Weezer style alt rock tune. The lyrics beg for a second chance, which is not totally surprising. What I like about it, though, is that it is genuine in its desperation. Some of us have been there and can connect with that, “please, don’t go” mentality. It works really well with sentiment and instrumentation.

“One for Me” feels a bit like a carnival song. Some of the unconventional elements of the melody are at times haunting, and at times eerily familiar. “Sunrise” brings back the acoustic guitar and rolls along nicely. It sounds maybe the most like a typical ETTG type of song. The vocal soars on this one more than the others and the harmonies are to die for. It’s not the most indicative of Bloom’s style, but it’s probably my favorite on the album. The two concluding songs also take the album in different directions, nestled in that 90s alt rock world pretty nicely.

When I run across artists like Alex Bloom, I just really want to sit down and talk with them. I know talking about music is a bit silly to some, but I always want to know what makes this kind of music “work.” The elements of jazz and pop and genuine artistry work together eloquently. It’s a sophisticated pop flavor, like a well-aged wine, I guess. I’ll drop one more reference, which might be the most accurate, which is Mayer Hawthorne. For a total take on the sound, definitely for fans of Mayer Hawthorne. Enjoy this unconventional and high art pop album.

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