Record Review: Albert Alexander- College
Between taking a full slate of classes, working two jobs, researching a thesis, and planning the rest of my life come spring, it takes an awfully big something for me to dust off this old blog and write about music for any period of time. In what has been in all honesty a season of excellent music on all fronts, I’m excited to say that this is that something.
I’ve known Albert Alexander since he came to the open mic night I ran during welcome week of my sophomore year, and from moment one he’s simply blown me away with his seemingly effortless talent and witty, imaginative songwriting. He’s the kind of person that you feel without a doubt deserves to make a name for himself, yet at the same time you want to keep all to yourself for fear that he’d lose something of the intimacy and authenticity of the guy who sits in your dorm hallway at all hours singing to whoever might be around. This week, Albert finally took the big step of putting out a self-produced album, and I’m thrilled to say he’s managed to get the best of both worlds.
Though the self-explanatorily titled “College” is really an EP I suppose, with nine songs totaling a little over twenty minutes in length, it has the thematic and emotional scope of a full length release, compiling the tunes Albert composed over the years reflecting on life at Michigan State University into a remarkably coherent unified work. Opening with the frenetic and hilarious “Posers”, he manages to skewer most of the college creative archetypes and establish himself as someone outside the crowd all within the space of two minutes (and it still sounds every bit as fantastic as it did when he first played it in my dorm room for myself and a friend after a party a year and a half ago… not to brag or anything). From there, the album weaves in and out of incredibly literate vignettes of college life, and much like Sufjan Stevens, you can tell that Albert dabbles in creative writing on the side. Characters arrive fully formed with tremendous and relatable detail, then disappear almost as quickly from track to track, while the simple yet agile acoustic sound and warm vocals give everything a fresh coat of instant nostalgia, as if watching life go straight from live action to a sepia toned memory. Perhaps the greatest triumph is (unsurprisingly) one of Albert’s more recent works on the album, the gently rocking party ode “Dead Weekends”, which builds slowly from the restless Friday classroom to the anticipation and small wonders of the weekend party scene in which not much really happens but nobody seems to mind, exemplified by the triumphant shout of “hell yes” that defines the chorus. It’s a scene that resonates with students from all walks of life, and shows Albert’s abilities as not merely a singer, but a storyteller in the finest folk tradition.
Am I piling on the praise a little thick here for a guy from my own backyard who features pictures of my former home in Case Hall on the album art? Of course I am. At the same time, as the fall chill has finally set in, the leaves turn, and the alumni begin to make the pilgrimage to East Lansing for homecoming weekend, I can think of no more fitting album. Also, it’s worth noting that this is only the tip of the iceberg for Albert’s catalog—he’s already composed several hours worth of material on fictional themes (such as the live favorite “Zombie Massacre Love Song”), local bars, and even a whole concept album, all just waiting to be recorded. I doubt I’m the only one who thinks that he can’t get back into the studio soon enough.
Albert Alexander—Dead Weekends (website) (MySpace)