Sydney Alese – Time
Rarely do pop songstresses arrive on the scene with such well-rounded skills. Though her twenty years of life might steer you to believe otherwise, Sydney Alese blooms full flower from her album Time as a composer and singer to start following now. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Alese’s muse is a free-spirited adventurer unafraid to dabble in a variety of musical areas and, invariably, succeeds in finding some new strength.
The title track makes her strengths clear. For those who believe that electronica might quell a song’s organic qualities, “Time” answers in a resounding negative. There’s an appealing inevitability to how Alese’s track shifts from moments of pure bombast over to muted, reflective passages – it’s as if this song were finished long before its recording and waiting for her to find it within herself. “Light My World” has a light melodic swing that might sound childlike, but the mood Alese is reaching for is vulnerability, the rejoicing we experience when finally allowing ourselves to be loved. “Pass You By” kicks off with wiry, crashing guitar riffing quite different from anything preceding it on the album. It’s impressive that Alese is able to go full-on rock and, at least, some of her listeners will be able to adjust to such a steep stylistic shift. It’s due to her convincing vocals that manage to retain sensitivity while exhibiting deceptive power. The glimmering pop surfaces of “Love in the Night” are a turn back towards electronica-guided pop music, but it’s dynamic stuff that has steady, persistent urgency.
The surprisingly personal “Responses Like These” has a simmering arrangement forever percolating at near-boil before spilling over into a powerful chorus. This is, perhaps, one of the album’s better songs thanks to its seamless merger of rock, acoustic textures, pop, electronica and an unquestionable singer/songwriter sensibility that, if nothing else, earns respect bearing its heart. Another plunge into dark electronica on “Prisoner” begins with the memorable opening couplet “So getting your kiss/should be easier than this” before Alese unveils another soul-baring confession of unhealthy obsession. Her voice is the heart of the song and guides the backing track rather than vice versa.
“I Found My Bliss” is as outstanding of a pop song as you may hear this year. The unbeatable combination of timing and melody come together in a small, delightfully coy passage that nevertheless never repels with sickly-sweet sentimentality. If there’s any song on Time that deserves to be hit, it’s this one. The final cut, “Rave”, ends the album on an upbeat note and is a fine track in that genre. Time is an outstanding and surprising album. Man or woman, you can scarcely expect to encounter debuts from twenty year olds so complete, so fully realized.
8 out of 10 stars