For a solo artist and self-proclaimed singer-songwriter, Alex Di Leo puts out a pretty full band sound on his first release So We Go. Granted, there is a band here at play, backing or fully integrated, but the sound is evocative of a group of people celebrating, reveling or otherwise just having a good time. Hitting many of the hallmarks of radio-ready indie-folk Di Leo channels several contemporary bands on a tight debut EP that creates and maintains an energy level, coherent indie-pop sound and song structure with a handful of tracks stand out as strikingly similar without being remotely repetitive.
The sound across the album is incredibly straightforward and coherent. Each of the six songs on So We Go tumbles forward atop a gentle yet rolling thunder of drums, features chugging guitar lines over which the vocal enunciation alternates between rhythmic sing-chanting and reverb-y, mic-across-the-room style group vocals on choruses and bridges. The pacing varies a bit song to song, but consistently occupies a warm and comfortable mid-tempo canter that stretches out the unbridled energy contained within and allows for the varies instrumental and vocal parts to stand out as they percolate and populate the soundscape.
There's also an emphasis on non-lyrical vocal lines—driving, ear-worm-y melodies that extend beyond simple “ooohs” and “ahhhs”—that either make up the bulk of or accent the chorus. Finally, while there's a full and underly acoustic feel to the album, the crisp digital production and electric instruments here and there take the energy level a step beyond your standard foot-stomping indie-folk act.
Di Leo sounds very much of this era, but while the sound feels like tailor made indie-pop, it sounds familiar more than it actually is familiar due to sounding just like another band. That said, from the simple perspective of feel and arrangement, Di Leo most closely resembles the band Fun—although without that group's propensity for long, meandering and self-important verses. Rather, Di Leo emphasizes a variety of slight vocal production changes that allow his vocals to be digestible if focused on or, if not, effective melodies that fade into the music.
So, while the sound as a whole is fairly uniform across the album, the nuance is sussed out in the individual songs. The album's opening and title track “So We Go,” wonderfully sets the tone with a distant and bright, flange guitar line that comes into focus at the other instruments burst in. The verse vocals are faux-baritone self-harmonies that bleed together and are slathered in reverb, juxtaposed by the bright chorus and a bridge that almost sounds like a brit-electro-pop page out of Hot Chip or Bloc Party's book.
The second track scales it back with a piano intro and a vocal line that sounds like it's lilting into The Killer's territory before a wash of lush, My Morning Jacket-style harmonies fill the space and lead into a chorus bouncing with “oooohs.” The tracks “Reason” and “When We First Met” both start with gentler acoustic guitar (the former featuring streamline, near-monotone vocals akin to Kurt Vile), but both chug along by the time the upbeat chorus takes hold. “I've Been Waiting” stands alongside the title track as the most catchy, single-ready tracks on the album. The song moves quickly from part to part, adding elements each time around, while swiveling backing vocals keep the parts unified. And, at the end of the day, the chorus is just terribly catchy. “Waking Up” closes the album out on a strong, optimistic note. Again the drums tumble forth, the vocals stagger through the verses and soar on the chorus and tight bridges keep the whole operation intertwined.
The only gripe I could levy about the album is that it sounds too perfectly tailored for the current indie-pop wave. That's not necessarily a bad thing—heck it takes a good ear to hear a chord and strike it yourself—and someone else could argue the exact same thing as the album's most positive attribute.
Ultimately, the album is a tight piece of work. So We Go is full of catchy, wending choruses, rolling drums and chugging guitars tumbling forward against a backdrop of reverb slathered vocals and harmonies to the end of a tightly crafted indie-pop album.
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