REVIEW: Rob Alexander — Olivia (SINGLE)
The fat throbbing bass pulse that gives Rob Alexander’s “Olivia” such a forceful heartbeat is the musical equivalent of a velvet hammer. You never feel throttled hearing this song. The bass pairs with the percussion like a round elbow nudging your back in time. You feel it reverberate while listening. It’s the latest single from Alexander’s album Dream Out Loud and has some of the traits of a definitive statement. It’s difficult to believe that a song well within the wheelhouse of arch-traditional topics such as a girl can qualify as a definitive statement, but Alexander confounds expectations. He places so much physicality into the words it elevates already fine songwriting several notches higher and seems to respond to the music.
The customary elements are here. The guitar isn’t included to take some pseudo-virtuoso excursion but, instead, adds energetic and rhythmic color. Alexander includes what sounds like electric piano and its quicksilver touch lightens the song’s “step”. “Olivia”, in lesser hands, could run off the rails. Alexander and his collaborators keep a firm hand on the song’s direction and its pacing is a critical part of why the song has such an impact.
Many listeners will love the chorus. Other tracks on the album underline the fact that Alexander understands the value of an exceptional refrain as it often becomes a song’s “calling card”. Alexander understands the importance of the moment, you hear it in his voice, but he never descends into crass or clumsy treatment. It’s the payoff for your attention that listeners expect while straddling the line between the familiar and individual.
Lots of listeners will, as well, love the subtle burst from the verses into the song’s chorus. The verses are comparatively lean and stripped back components. They fit lockstep, however, into the arrangement. “Olivia” is a fully rounded piece of songwriting with broad-based appeal and it sounds like Alexander knew exactly what he wanted from the song on the day of recording. There’s no hesitation.
Alexander still takes his music on with the same enthusiasm after three studio albums. You would never know either, listening to his music, that Alexander has a flourishing career as a physician and anesthesiologist. He hails from Florida and “Oliva”, like the remaining dozen songs included on his new album, is full of sunlight, but real life burns within the song as well.
This isn’t love without complications. Alexander believes, however, that he can face anything with “Olivia” at his side, that much is clear, and his passion never ebbs. It is an excellent choice for a single as it embodies the album’s musical and songwriting strengths while still presenting a thoroughly mainstream track. His influences may be obvious for some, but it doesn’t lessen the music’s worth. He successfully mixes echoes of artists who inspire him with a distinctive lyrical and aural point of view that results in one of the best indie releases in recent memory. It needs a wider audience and it’s easy to have faith it will get it.