Alexander Ebert has been a lot of things over the last 10 years. He has experience as a robot and a magnetic zero—even as Edward Sharpe—but at the moment he’s just Alexander. The freak-folk frontman’s debut solo album, Alexander, distinguishes itself from his previous and current collaborative efforts as it is completely his own. All the sounds heard on the album were created by Ebert himself whether it be violin, vocals, percussion or panting.
Before his solo debut, all of Ebert’s works had been collaborative in some way, so in Alexander we’re finally able to see everything that he would create if unrestrained. Despite a new sense of freedom, Ebert carefully crafts the album to keep a good balance between a full sound layered with an array of instruments and vocals to simpler textures that showcase just one element of the music.
A number of diverse influences come into play on Ebert’s debut, but all seem to stem from the same era. The vocals on “Bad Bad Love” sound as though Ebert is imitating Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman,” using the upper range of his own vocals and tightening up a bit to keep them in tune. “Remember Our Heart” draws on another ’60s staple in the Four Seasons, but with a slower tempo and sans the Frankie Valli-esque falsetto. Meanwhile, “In The Twilight” seems influenced by one of Ebert’s go-to sing-a-long songs, Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime,” but with a folk twist.
Ebert’s lyrics are clever as always, with statements like, “Is the wind a jerk because it changed?” or, “My body, my toes, my heart, my skin, my nose, my organs for you to play.” The songs are lyrically ambiguous, which encourages listeners to interpret them as they will, but they should not be analyzed in a vacuum as Ebert’s tone and instrumentation play a big part in the message of each piece. This can be frustrating at times, considering the listener never truly knows if the songs should be making them happy or sad, but at the same time it’s a factor that makes one appreciate the beauty of Ebert’s craftsmanship.
There’s rarely a moment of complete silence on the album, which evokes some imagery of Ebert running around his bedroom recording studio to play each and every instrument. But Alexander is not an album marked by chaos. Instead, it’s more of a peaceful protest in that it uses unconventional tactics to catch the listener’s attention, without unnecessary assault.