Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Alston David's enigmatic, engaging pop grows on me

November 14, 2011

Our disposable culture doesn’t have much use for slow-growing albums. This is a profound sadness, as albums that sink in over repeated listens often offer the highest dividends. Alston David’s self-titled album of eclectic, vintage pop is one of such releases.

This review almost didn’t make it to the site; David’s e-mail to me bounced around in various folders before finally settling in the “To Review” section. I didn’t exactly know what to make of it: The thirteen songs borrow from both the light piano-pop of ELO and the ominous, psychedelic mishmash of the Flaming Lips’ Embryonic. “Photograph (Angels/Devils)” pulls from both at the same time.

But as difficult as it is to wrap my head around the contrasting aspects of Alston David’s work, I kept coming back to the songs. “When California Falls Right Into the Ocean” has a haunting melody doubled by the vocal and piano, a ragged sense of rhythm, and lush atmosphere. Opener “Spottedcrow Flies” foregrounds the arch feel of the album via a synth-heavy march. The forlorn “Tornado” features a cold-yet-elegant piano and strings. “If It’s All In My Head” is what Keane’s nightmares sound like. These are pop songs, but not like any you’ve heard recently.

The tunes are hard to place in the constraints of genre; this may be because I’ve not been exposed to a great deal of this type of music, or because their cross-genre sound takes a while to get used to. I do know, however, that the melodies keep running in my head, no matter how difficult it is for me to cite RIYL bands or even specific and concrete reasons I like the album as much as I do.

I’m sure this has been a relatively unexciting read, and I apologize to everyone involved. But Alston David’s self-titled album is engaging because it’s enigmatic, and then enigmatic because it’s engaging. That loop makes for great listening, but not necessarily good writing. Just go listen to it – it’s worth your time, especially if you give it a full listen (and then think about it for a while).

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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