Amidst a busy touring schedule last year, singer/songwriter Alex Ebert (frontman for bands, Ima Robot and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) took a break from his baker’s dozen feel-good-hippie-music-act to create an eloquent and eery solo album fittingly entitled, Alexander. Ebert’s solo sound is thankfully a departure from the pop-punk-emo tunes of Ima Robot. Instead, the ten tracks on Alexander fall more in line musically with the stylish makings of ESMZ. Ebert’s musical influences appear obvious to any listener with even a shallow understanding of music history, and lucky for us he picked some of the best from decades past. Timeless tones of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Beatles (later years), Bob Marley, and even Johnny Cash meander their way through these tracks, all the while feeling fresh and new thanks to Ebert. Rarely do I listen to an album in a first sitting and enjoy it in its entirety, but such is the case with Alexander.
Most tracks are carefully laced with echos of ghostly background vocals that somehow find a way to complement an upbeat snap-clap cadence of each song’s message. At moments, especially during the first track, Let’s Win!, it felt as if Ebert was the Pied Piper and I trustingly filed in behind other listeners to join his traveling circus. I suppose that is one of the best ways to set an album’s tone and get the listener on-board. Contrary to what listeners may initially assume, Ebert didn’t recruit his 12 ESMZ band members to play the instruments on this debut solo album. Rather, he retreated to his bedroom between shows to play each and every instrument (including all vocals) himself. The seamless melding of vocals with an arsenal of instrumentation is easy on the ears and light on the soul, perhaps leaving the listener a bit closer to enlightenment. I suppose that is Ebert’s Pied Piper mentality again…lulling his audience into a peaceful trance. Hey, in an ever more stressful world, it works for me. Like other musicians who have taken on the enormous feat of creating a canon of songs entirely on their own (a certain Timothy Seth Avett as “Darling” comes to mind…), Ebert can now reflect on his first solo project with pride. Do yourself a favor, take a listen and get enlightened.