The first thing that struck me about Alpha Particles’ debut eponymous EP Alpha Particles was how closely the initial guitar tones reminded me of early alternative rock, specifically bands such as Dino Jr., Sonic Youth, etc. and I was not at all surprised when I read that those were a few of Allen Morris’, the lone songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of Alpha Particles, chief influences. Putting Alpha Particles head-to-head with these notable bands, I would say that the largest difference came in the familiar, pop-esque vocal melodies and tonal inflections, as opposed to the oftentimes grimy, mumbled, grungy vocal delivery of the time. Morris’ vocals brought to light another possible influence to me: Weezer.
I found that Morris’ knack for finding a melody closely resembles that of Rivers Cuomo, which is cool. When arriving upon Alpha Particles’ Bandcamp page, I noticed that, in the band description, it reads that the music contains “Teenage Fanclub jangle-pop sensibility,” and, considering I’ve had Bandwagonesque in my car for the last week, I certainly found that to be true. Throughout the album, the dark guitar lines in conjunction with the lighter vocals draw a nice contrast that grant each song a certain amount of depth and with that being said, Alpha Particles is quite an enjoyable listen.
One thing I found to be both surprising and a little off-putting about the album was how high the vocals are in the mix. This is not necessarily a bad thing per say, however I feel that the strong vocal emphasis kind of subtracted from the instrumentation. Songs like “Silent Words” and the second half of “Diving Bell” exhibit the strength of Morris’ instrumentation, and I just hate to hear some of it being covered up with vocals. Now, don’t get me wrong; the vocals are very strong throughout the music, however I just found that the vocals were disproportionately mixed, an example being the song “Fractures.” Now, with this being said, I could be biased, as a lot of the music I listen to contains vocals that are low in the mix, acting as a sort of additional instrument, so take that comment with a grain of salt. When compared with Teenage Fanclub, for example, the vocals that Morris exhibits fit right in. I just personally think it would add to divert the emphasis a bit from the vocals and onto the instruments, but to each their own.
My favorite track on the album, and a track that I find to be very impressive, is “Silent Words,” which, in my opinion, is very, very well textured. The guitars in this track are super interesting sounding, the drumming is super solid and I like how the vocals sound. I would say that this song certainly holds up with Morris’ influences.
Overall, I would say that this is a very good debut release. Speaking as a listener, I find that one-piece bands go one of two ways: they either release a multitude of songs that sound incredibly similar to each other, or they just sound exceptionally cohesive, considering the artist knows their own playing inside and out, and I would say Alpha Particles falls in with the latter.
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