Music at Nightspots (Ann Arbor Observer - September)
Alejandra O'Leary Version 2.0
Welcome to Alejandra O'Leary version 2.0. In early April, the young singer-songwriter introduced a new wrinkle to her already impressive musical repertoire - a backing band. Flanked by Jeremy Frey on bass and Jamie Church on guitar, and with John Grandstaff keeping beat on the drums, O'Leary played her first gig with her new band on April Fool's Day, a mere two weeks after forming it.
For those unfamiliar with O'Leary, she is a real talent who has been gaining a strong following in Ann Arbor, since she arrived with her boyfriend, a U-M law student, a year ago. Born in Portland, Maine, O'Leary spent five years as a musician in New York City (where she cut her first album, 'Nothing Out Loud') before her move to Ann Arbor. Once in Michigan, she had to reestablish a fan base and initially did so by performing her songs solo on guitar. However, vascular problems in her left arm made playing guitar increasingly difficult, so now, with the backing of her new band, she has switched to keyboards.
O'Leary's voice sounds like a combination of Jenny Lewis and Victoria Williams. and her songs are both catchy and fun - polished, straightforward, and barroom accessible. But they also have a certain lyrical toughness that's reminiscent of another Williams, Lucinda. In "Broken Mirror Baby" (the title track of her brand new second album), she delivers lyrics about "talking smack and shooting your mouth off" and getting "the wind kicked out of me". "When Will They Learn?" is an anti-crush song about wanting other people to realize the faults of her former boyfriend and stop pining over him - a very Lucinda Williams-ish theme.
While her songs stand on their own, O'Leary's between song banter shows her confidence in her craft and adds to the entertainment. "This is a drunken country ballad called 'Thinkin' Straight', which is about not thinking straight," she quipped, full smile, before she and the band started in on a raucous tune that featured O'Leary kicking a tambourine on a nearby table while shredding the keyboards and delivering a killer vocal.
"I love playing with a band," O'Leary admitted after the show. It showed. Tha band looked equally enthused, and the foursome can only get better with time. While the band wasn't involved in her new album, it certainly adds an edge to her older material, and it will be interesting to see what sorts of songs O'Leary and her musicians come up with collaboratively. Regardless, an already legitimate talent has added a bit more oomph to her rock 'n' roll credentials. I can't wait to see where it takes her.
Alejandra O'Leary and her band celebrate the release of "Broken Mirror Baby" at Crazy Wisdom on September 3, at Woodruff's on September 7, and at the Tap Room on September 10.
With the more melodic sensibilities of 90's Britpop on show, yet never afraid to uncover a more delicate side when the guitar reverb momentarily recedes, this track offers a pleasing range of emotion and style. Overall, though, it's a pure cracker to kick back with a cold bevvie and take in, anticipating those brighter days that must be just around the corner.
So download, dig, and sit tight for further posts on that new album. You can also go back and spend some time with Alejandra's debut, if you missed it first time around. Neither choice will disappoint . . . (- NYC blog Heavier Than Air)
"The very first time I heard Alejandra sing, I fell in love with her voice. And let me tell you, Alejandra can write a song. The fact that “Ever After,” isn’t already dominating the radio is a crime against musical common sense. “Love I Been In,” is a gorgeous, multi-melodic piece of pure pop perfection. “Tremor,” may be my favorite song on the album, employing keyboards along with the bass to bring in a delicious, ambient, downtempo vibe while still maintaining all her pop smarts. I’ve fallen in love and I’ve fallen hard. Truly head and shoulders above the pack." (- The Ripple Effect)
"Alejandra O’Leary has released an album of high-quality, well-articulated, catchy pop songs that plumb the depths and the banalities of modern life. Influenced by 1960s British compositions and production, the record is wonderfully warm and O’Leary’s mastery of the pop hook pushes these tracks beyond the realm of the ordinary. The tracks are both fiery and reflective and are filled with longing and righteous anger. Melodies and choruses stick in your head and you find your self humming a refrain with a feeling of warm satisfaction. The smart songwriting and arranging on Nothing Out Loud places O’Leary in the company of powerhouses like Liz Phair, Britpoppers Elastica, or even the 1960s country-inflected indie rock of She and Him." (- Feminist Review )
"Nothing Out Loud has more than a hint of 1960s girl group about it, creating something of a retro pop feel at times, no better illustrated than by “Tremor”. The simple, yet powerful “Thinkin' Straight” is surely the album’s must-listen track, closely followed by “Rally” or “You Gotta Love Me Sometimes”. O’ Leary’s sound is like the musical equivalent of a Formica table, simple yet effective and though representing an era of years gone by, it still manages to maintain a place amongst modern surroundings." (- Hubbub UK )
"Alejandra O'Leary creates a pop album that goes through the frustrations of a relationship from a personal perspective. The guitar sound is influenced by the British sixites, but the lyrical angst is closer to 50's icons Lesley Gore and The Shangri Las. Her vocals tremble slightly as she croons "Ever After" the standout track here. It's your girlfriend unloading her anger on you with a beautifully jangling guitar as accompaniment." (-The Powerpopaholic )
"Alejandra rocks hard with her melodious tunes and insane guitar that will have you believing. " (-Junior's Cave )