Alex Di Leo – So We Go
Debuts don’t come much better than this. Alex Di Leo was a member of the South Florida band Wyld Fly for seven years and the time was well spent honing his songwriting, vocal, and musical skills in anticipation of this moment. His first solo EP So We Go is a stunning six song journey through his artistic vision that touches on many approaches while still bringing them seamlessly together into a single cohesive musical experience. His vocal ability is deceptively large; he’s equally at home essaying the more sedate stretches in this collection as he is giving full vent to his passions during other sections. There’s no filler here – it’s apparent that Di Leo used the time between Wyld Fly’s breakup and the recording of this album to readying the material, tweak it, and have it as good is he could make it before committing it to the recording process. It results in one of the year’s most fully realized musical debuts from anyone.
It announces itself with great confidence on the title song. Di Leo’s songwriting shows some influence from rock music with its love of alternating light and shade, but there’s senility that never deserts his powers as a songwriter no matter what mode he’s working in. Some might cringe away from the inclusion of keyboards but, unlike many, Di Leo knows how to incorporate them into the music without ever allowing their novelty to dominate the proceedings. “Making It Easier” brings piano in as a primary instrument, but the mode of attack is virtually the same as the opener except, perhaps, attacked a little more intensely. The raucous sections are a little busier than before and the song has a pleasing ascending quality many listeners will enjoy. “Reason” finds Di Leo taking his foot off the gas some and incorporating acoustic sounds into his sonic palette. The result is closer to folk pop than ever before, but Di Leo has just begun to go down that road.
Such ambitions are fully realized on the song “When We First Met”. This song wouldn’t be out of place on a Fleet Foxes album and certainly makes great use of vocal harmonies to make maximum impression on the listener. None of the songs on this album test listener’s patience with their running time, but Di Leo does a fantastic job of stuffing them with worlds of imagination. This is never truer than on the EP’s final two cuts. The first, “I’ve Been Waiting”, brings him closer to an outright rock song than anything else on the EP and relies, as before, on his expert manipulation of light and shade. The finale for So We Go comes with the song “Waking Up”. If nothing has jarred listeners from their self-inflicted slumber, this song certainly will. It has all the best stirring elements of what has preceded it along with the extra heat of an inspired Di Leo who takes his vocal to new places. This powerful ending puts an emphatic exclamation point on one of the best solo first releases you’ll hear in 2016.
9 out of 10 stars.