Looking for something new, something different, something to play while driving on a sunny or gloomy day, something to dance too? No worries, Alae’s got it.
In a phone interview with Alae's lead singer and multi-instrumentalist, Alex Farrell-Davey, I shared that Henry St was the most artistic and unique album that I had heard in a long time... in particular lyrically and structurally. The album features a collection of up-beat, catchy, sombre and contrasting songs which are ordered in a way that builds but then gradually drops back down, both musically and emotionally.
“We wanted to create an obvious arc for the album to flow through,” said Alex.
An idea clearly carried out effectively. I found myself wanting to listen to songs in different settings but instead of jumping from one emotion to another, the album flowed subtly between them. Not only does this bring a natural transition to Henry St but it also encourages audiences to listen to the album in full as opposed to singular songs or on shuffle play. However, should the album be played out of the intended order, our engagement isn’t wavered with the help of simple, but effective, humanisers that add to the naturalness of the music and authenticity of the band.
The opening of the album, Back In Town starts with drone sounds accompanied by the typical static a live amp would make when the gain is up to high, as well as a quiet cough to clear the throat... Little simplicities like this are placed sporadically, featured in most of the songs on this track. Even small things like hearing the pick hit the strings... unconventional but very ‘human’. I love it!
Thematically, the album fluctuates between love songs, out-of-love songs and, interestingly, songs of a family dynamic which Alex was willing to share during our interview. He also kindly gave me permission to elaborate in this review.
Back In Town touches on Alex’s personal experiences with not knowing his father growing up but meeting him when he was 17 and the effect it had on his mother. While Sunrise/Sunfall was about the physical distance between him and his mother and how he feels bad for not being there for her as much as he’d like to be... but thankfully, she understands. It also talks about how his mother has someone else who can be there for her and Alex coming to terms with his stepfather and the shift in family. Pretty heavy stuff right? Especially when it’s first two songs on the album as well… Bold.
Allow me a brief tangent about Sunrise/Sunfall... Structurally, this song is epic. It is divided into two sections; the first is Alex's relationship with his mother and the influence of his stepfather, the second is him coming to terms with it. The two sections also contrast each other to the point where it almost feels like two separate songs but because the sound is carried through and we get this major chord progression from the piano, we know we’ve come to some sort of resolve. Brilliant!
There are a few songs on Henry St that shine ever-so-slightly more than the other tracks on the album. Too Strung Up is definitely my favourite for multiple reasons... the first being the way it opens. It starts by differentiating itself from the other songs by using some sort of low pass/high cut filter to make it sound as if it’s come from another room and then you open the door to this absolute banger of a song. Not only is the chorus dangerously catchy but the rhythm of the lyrics pulsate consonants on the beat which results in an amazing track. Only negative point I have to make on this song is that it’s too short! The typical time frame for a contemporary song (and/or radio edit) is 3:30 and this song finishes at 2:30! I want more!
Time & Money is another one of my favourites with a predominantly jazz influence... it’s hard not to imagine the classic scene of jazz singer with a condenser microphone in front of a red curtain during the introductions of the song. The chorus is also very much a singalong, the way the lines are sung with subtle shouting of the lyrics driving it into a bigger, fuller, more memorable chorus. Time & Money is probably the most divergent song on the album, Alex said it was during an upbeat jam that they thought, “Oh we’ve gotta put that on there”. I’m very glad they did and I look forward to seeing the track performed live!
Listen to it in the car, in your room, on a bus, on a plane, vinyl (limited number of vinyl copies!) It sounds wicked anywhere. Well written, well played, well produced, well done!
Alae’s ‘Henry St’ Tour
8 November Totara Street, Tauranga
9 November Caroline, Wellington
17 November The Wunder Bar, Christchurch
1 December The Anthology Lounge, Auckland
8 December The Boathouse, Nelson
Tickets are on sale now through www.undertheradar.co.nz
- Back In Town
- Super Imposition Projection Boy
- Stone Cold
- Too Strung Up
- All Gived Up
- Hell Toupé
- I’m Still Waiting
- Time & Money
- Love Hurts Heavy
- If You Were Here
Special thanks to Alex Farrell-Davey for his exclusive phone interview with Radio13!
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