It’s the time of year to gaze out at a stark wintry landscape, mull over the past, and plan for the future. Alex2e’s new EP, Half-Grown, provides five songs you need for this mood. His other-worldly vocal tone and introspective lyrics will hold your hand through five songs that center around honesty, connection, and risk. [Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon]
I finally got to meet this story-telling New England singer-songwriter when he was the midliner for the Clark Beckham show at Café Nine in October, where he did a smashingly eerie cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” You can hear him live at his album release show on Saturday, December 1, at Gateway City Arts in Holyoke.
This sparse song feels like looking at a troubled relationship through the prism of a fallen icicle. It means something different with each shift of the light – it’s very simple, it’s very complicated. “It trickles down like a waterfall of things you never do” is the compelling image of the song for me: something that ought to be abundant and life-giving instead falls into the other person’s lack of response. Hold onto the idea of whether it’s possible to wake up. Think about it with a cup of cocoa in hand and watch the snow fall.
If you like to rock harder, start with this song. If you’re inclined to do your introspection while walking along a New England beach, definitely start with this song. This is going on my New Year’s playlist of songs about letting go of the past, illusions, crap, distractions, and prejudices.
Stay on the beach. Sit on a rock. You need the lapping waves to comfort you in addressing the tangle of emotions at the sparse start. This one intensely captures the difficulty of leaving a relationship that you had great hopes for, but the other person never quite was fully there. Three things that make this my favorite song from the EP: the wordplay with “doubt,” the dramatic arc of the instrumentation (you can feel the epiphanies arriving and accelerating), and a back half that reminds me of Lloyd Cole’s early 1990s lush instrumentation and deadpan delivery of truths.
If your preference is romance, start here, as this one is “nothing short of damn magnificent.” I’m not usually a romantic, so the gutsy honesty here about readiness and risk, and about not knowing how to do the mushy stuff, speaks to me. So does the emphasis on mutual support and comfort – the instrumentation will sweep you off your feet, while the lyrics will take you home to sit by the fire.
Bring Out the Ghost
This is a song I’ve been enthusiastic about since it was released as a single – and it’s an even better song with the emotional journey of the EP behind it. The lyrics have always implied an emotional journey – the EP gives you the whole story of what happens with “heart-to-hearts with ourselves every night.” It’s a gentle anthem that should leave you with misty eyes, waking up to a better future. “Don’t let those monsters sing out this song, too.”
An EP you need when holiday cheer is not your mood. While I originally interpreted Half-Grown as reflecting how some specific lyrics reflect the difficulties of one’s late twenties and early thirties, by the end of the EP, I felt it more as a statement that part of who we are is our potential to grow more.
Here’s the “Thriller” video as your treat for reading to the end!