Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Alex Di Leo - So We Go

South Florida based singer/songwriter Alex Di Leo is a familiar regional name thanks to his tenure in the band Wyld Fly, but the six song EP So We Go represents his first foray into the marketplace under his own banner. It’s a stunning debut and hints at greatness to come. Di Leo’s songwriting skills are evident in every track – there’s a solid foundation he builds on with an assortment of production touches and discreet instrumentation that never oversteps its boundaries. His vocals, as well, concentrate on conveying their stories and meaning while refraining from any needless histrionics. Melody is the essential building block in all of these songs and they are made even stronger with the inclusion of spot on harmonies. The material is decidedly mainstream, but never panders to trends and wears its influences on its sleeve without ever lapsing into outright imitation. 

Few songs illustrate the last point better than the title song. “So We Go” is definitely capable of garnering Di Leo some much deserved attention from the Internet and radio, but there’s a deceptively complex musical talent working here. The ability to take essentially simple musical structures and make something richer from them without weighing them down with needless pretense is an underestimated gift. Di Leo, however, possesses it in abundance. It’s further on display with the EP’s second song “Making It Easier”. He uses dynamics in these songs like a hard rock band might employ them and it builds a number of small crescendos into the arrangement sure to entrance many listeners. His musical vision encompasses softer acoustic strains as well. “Reason” is, far and away, the album’s most introspective tune in some respects and Di Leo’s arrangement nearly dovetails with the spirit of its lyrical content. 

His pop instincts merge well with his more serious inclinations on the memorable “When We First Met”. Much of this song’s lasting impact on the listener can be lain at the feet of its superb vocal harmonies and artful production, but it’s simply quite a sturdy song that would have proven just as memorable stripped down to a few essentials. “I’ve Been Waiting” sets up the first part of the EP’s concluding one-two punch with talent and ambition to burn. Di Leo’s skill level is such that he’s capable of condensing entire musical universes within traditionally small spaces and never overload the listener. The dynamic sweep of this track will snatch listeners up and keep them involved for its duration. The album’s final song, “Waking Up”, is every bit as jolting as the title suggests and invites listeners to stick with it every second. This is Di Leo’s compositional zenith – he’s orchestrated this track beautifully and its position as the album’s final curtain couldn’t have been set up any better.

 There’s something here teetering on the cusp of greatness, a blossoming musical vision that will likely continue expanding with new live shows, new albums. It is impressively complete now. So We Go brims over with melody, invention, and message, but it’s equally entertaining and physically compelling music.  

9 out of 10 stars

Joshua Stryde

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