Jav Rivera has been writing music since the mid 90’s but his music tends to feel like it is paying homage to some of the artists of the 70’s. This is true not only for the music but the production as well. For instance, the drum kit sounds like a real kit being played live. It doesn't sound overcompressed and it isn't front and center in the mix. Combine his good sense of aesthetics with his songwriting and you are left with Almost Alive. Two artists come to mind when I listen to this album, Nick Drake and Pink Floyd. The songs at heart here are folk songs that would sound fine even if there were no other instruments or effects. However he does add effects such as slight delays and reverbs, which gives the songs a psychedelic quality. The album’s themes focus on death, seclusion, depression, and a general reevaluation of life, goals and dreams but luckily the album does not feel that dark. It has a nice mix of songs in which some are uplifting while others feel they are exploring your darkest thoughts and you don't know the way out, such as “Thoughts I Fight.”
Rivera’s voice is warm and comforting even though I thought it had a bit too much reverb on it at points. The guitar and vocal work is what excels in the album and what is ultimately the best draw to the music. Take “Before” which has lush guitars that create a dreamy type atmosphere that sounds like a folk song dipped in a fair amount of LSD. His vocals are straight which provides a humanistic element and ensures we don't go too far off the grid. One of the upbeat numbers on the album is “Nevermind My Mind.” He repeatedly sings the lyrics “never mind your mind” as if this is an easy thing to do. By the end of the song I thought maybe I shouldn't have spent $2000 on Transcendental Meditation courses and just listened to this song instead which would have given me enough confidence to look past my bad thoughts.
This album has 12 songs but it only runs about 45 minutes. It does not over extend its welcome and has enough variety and quality songwriting to keep me engaged. Almost Alive was a nice treat and at this point I am going to check out some of his back catalogue.
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