Album Review: Alex Lahey – I Love You Like a Brother

By on Wednesday, 8th November 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Alex Lahey coverAussie alt-rocker and SXSW 2017 alum Alex Lahey’s debut LP ‘I Love You Like a Brother’ has been out over a month now, but the consistency and quality of both the singing and the songwriting on the album indicate that it, and Lahey herself, might just have some staying power. The style of the songs, on the whole, is an engaging combination of garage rock and twee indie pop, in which Lahey finds just the right ‘cool girl’ vibe between catchy guitar riffs and smart, deceptively astute lyrics.

Opening track and early hit single ‘Everyday’s the Weekend’ packs an immediate punch with its driving guitar rhythm and sharply punctuated lyrical phrases. Lahey’s vocal is both seductive and mildly sullen as she describes an illicit relationship in the verses (“you’ve got things like a family / they’re a bigger deal than I’ll ever be”), and tempts her lover to throw caution to the winds in the catchy chorus, “don’t know, don’t care / every day’s the weekend”.

‘I Love You Like a Brother’ is even more uptempo and energetic, carrying Lahey’s devil-may-care attitude into an ode to sibling solidarity. The chorus message is stone simple, “I love you like a brother / just like I oughta”, but the verses display an agile wit in lines like “from the same divorce and from the same wedding / we couldn’t help that marriage ending” and the musical treatment is infectious from start to finish. Lahey takes a more serious tone in the opening lyrics to ‘Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder’, “Perth is lucky that she’s pretty / otherwise I’d hate that city / the only place my heart’s been torn in two”, but her sharp cynicism is a perfect match to the fuzzy guitars and pounding drums, and the lightly floating “oohs” at the end of the song keep it from being weighed down in despair.

The tempo and dynamic levels back off a bit in ‘I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself’, and here Lahey’s singing voice starts to make its presence known. ‘Backpack’ is even slower and more stripped back, with light, gently sung vocals matched to a bright and pervasive guitar riff. Lahey wisely avoids the kind of vocal contortions that make many female pop/rock singers unlistenable, depending instead on her natural tone and writing melodic lines that suit the sweet clarity in her upper register.

Appropriately angular in its musical arrangement, ‘Awkward Exchange’ leans more in the pop direction with soaring background vocals and the first hint of keyboards in the mix. Its simple rhyming couplets center around the sharply declamatory chorus, “you’re outta my bed, now get out of my head / whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”. By contrast, ‘I Want U’ is a sweet, breathless acknowledgement of new romance, where Lahey gets just a bit tiny coy in the lines, “I don’t know much more about you / but it seems to me that you do / things that people only do / when they think that they like me too”

Recent single ‘Lotto in Reverse’ gets back to a grittier rock sound and more deliberately strident vocal, which aptly matches the jaded bitterness of Lahey’s lyrics. She deftly segues to a mood of languid ennui in ‘Let’s Call It a Day’ before closing the album with the delicately sad and exquisitely sung ballad ‘There’s No Money’.

Though Lahey’s quick-witted lyrics and impossibly catchy guitar lines are the first aspects of this album to make their mark, it’s ultimately the flexibility and subtle inflections of her singing voice that have a lasting impact. ‘I Love You Like a Brother’ covers a lot of emotional territory in its themes, and Lahey adeptly uses both her voice and her guitar to execute her full range of desired effects. The album is vivacious and fun, but it has an underlying intelligence and wit that belies Lahey’s relative youth.

8.5/10

Alex Lahey’s debut LP ‘I Love You Like a Brother’ is out now on Dead Oceans. Lahey is set to embark on a handful of UK shows at the end of this week before heading to North America. You can find details on all of her upcoming live dates on her official Facebook. Read more about Alex Lahey on TGTF through this link.

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