Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Alex Di Leo - So We Go

The first release from solo artist Alex Di Leo, So We Go, marks his first recorded work since the breakup of South Florida band Wyld Fly in 2014 and sets the stage for a memorable career on his own. Di Leo’s wide ranging songwriting talents are based from a complete command and grasps of the basics – each of the six compositions on this EP has a solid skeleton that allows Di Leo a chance to further flesh it out with an assortment of contributions. Electronic instruments play an important role in the artistic success of So We Go, but his vocals and the production are far and away the most critical sonic elements driving the musical train here. Di Leo’s voice has range that might surprise some and certainly an emotive capability that adds much to the performances. He is clearly an attentive singer as well and carefully tailors his vocal to the song’s needs. The production might strike some as a tad affected, but beauty is proverbially in the eye of the beholder. Many more will note the distanced recording style, the prevalence of echo, and enjoy the ambiance it creates for these songs.  

There are eighties influences creeping through the music. The title song sounds like the best music of the era re-envisioned and filtered through a much more refined musical sensibility. Di Leo invokes the bounciest pop elements of this sort of material while avoiding all of the standard pratfalls and moments of tastelessness. His voice steers the song with strength and confidence, but never overplays itself as the song’s center. “Making It Easier” packs a tremendous amount of musical punch and accumulates much of its power along the way thanks to a snaking arrangement that never allows listeners to get too comfortable. It springs with ebullient, brightly-colored glee and Di Leo’s vocal easily matches the mood and impresses listeners again with his substance and charisma. The songwriting effect is much more restrained on “Reason”. This is perhaps the most mature bit of songwriting found on So We Go and, at very least, makes sharper use of dynamic contrast than the other material. Di Leo’s skill for composing memorable choruses is an across the board strength on So We Go and this song has one of the EP’s best. 

“When We First Met” might take a very familiar trope for its subject matter, but the song and its sonics are thoroughly modern sounding and the track highlights probably the best use of vocal harmonies on the release. Dynamics drive “I’ve Been Waiting” and the shifting musical moods give the song surprising dramatic power. Di Leo wisely doesn’t try matching the musical firepower harnessed here and, instead, underplays his vocal in comparison, focusing on phrasing and nuance instead of presence. The closing tune “Waking Up” could have worked just as ideally in the opening slot and shows the sort of flexibility much of Di Leo’s material has. It’s a sweeping, beautifully arranged ending to the EP. Di Leo has scored big with this initial release and, recognizing full well the quality of these first solo songs, we can only be stoked for future music to come.  

9 out of 10 stars 

Shannon Cowden 

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