As Others Are, the recent release by Alec Sloane, features the sad-sweet juxtaposition of bright, Beatlesque instrumentation providing a vehicle for dour, quivering vocals, in vein of Elliott Smith. And, while Sloane strongly channels Smith, the EP never treads into the territory of directly replicating the late singer-songwriter, rather it plays out as both homage and an inspired take on the beautifully somber style.
While Sloane maintains a mostly coherent tone throughout the EP, he varies the energy level and orchestration a bit throughout the album. The opener, “The Thoughts That Keep Me,” features a waltz-y progression accented by bright, clean guitar and driven driven by a simple, snare-laden drum beat. The song maintains a bit of a stop/start mentality, with the vocally driven parts finding the instrumentation at its most stripped down and sweeping movements emerging in the absence of vocals as a sort of thematic counterweight to the optimistically bleak lyrics. “Port of Call” and “Wrong Side of the Door” strongly channel Smith, with multiple, reedier vocals tracks stacked haphazardly to suggest a quivering sense of conviction, with said vocals leading the tracks, standing against simply picked out chords and guitar melodies.
“Some Days” follows suite and features similar vocals, but also draws in more in more intensity and conviction in the delivery, with lines like “Everybody knows, that I'm a habit, to be let go,” bleeding a resigned, sweetly bleak sensibility. The title track closes out As Others Are, projecting a sincere, pre-dawn feeling of faltering dreaminess with an eerie, descending minor chord progression picked out with bright notes. The vocals harmonies remain feebly layered together, but here also lined alongside the guitar riff, conveying a sense of resolute coherence and conclusion. It's a great track to end an album on.
The only thing that stands out oddly on the album is the track, “Young Boy,” which plays out like a romping folk-rock/classic country song in the vein of early Johnny Cash. There's nothing wrong with the song, but the upbeat nature of the driving guitar and pseudo-baritone that Sloane projects make the track feel like it could be a different artist slipped into the middle of the EP. Again, nothing wrong with going in a couple directions, but for an album so focussed on the delicate, cloistered sentiments, it kind interrupts the flow.
It's also worth noting that while Sloane channels Smith in many different ways throughout the EP, the overall impact is far from that of an artist trying to sound like another. The album is deeply personal, confessional and heartfelt—much like Smith's work—but here it feels like both artists are drawing from the same pool, rather than one following in the footsteps of another.
As Others Are was recorded and mastered by Chris Hunt (who also lent some drum and bass assistance) primarily using a pro-tools/DIY set-up. The production is perfect at capturing the intimacy of the music—while you know that production pains were taken to convey this, the fact that their not evident speaks to their success.
Overall, As Others Are is a gentle, delicate work that captures nuance and minutia while carrying on the legacy of Elliott Smith.
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