Nothing Out Loud
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 the songs are well arranged with fleshed out, but never overdone, instrumentation.
The album begins with the pop-perfect tumult of “Ever After,” “Love I Been In,” and “Tremor.” The lyrics crackle with accessible Ivy League intelligence and innuendo. Sleepless nights and frustrated affairs never sounded so good. On “Ever After” O’Leary laments that she’s “tired of giving you my free labor, no time clock, no nights off, well I hate it,” in a Marxism-infused kiss-off. The tracks are both fiery and reflective and are filled with longing and righteous anger.
The middle of the record moves toward pensive territory and features O’Leary’s voice and guitar playing. While this may be familiar terrain for singer-songwriters, O’Leary’s mastery of the pop hook pushes these tracks beyond the realm of the ordinary. Melodies and choruses stick in your head and you find your self humming a refrain with a feeling of warm satisfaction. Nothing Out Loud picks up again towards the end with the standout “I Love Your Tone,” which could just as easily be an ode to an electric guitar as to a lover. 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.
While O’Leary’s song craft may be new to many listeners, she has been writing and performing guitar-based pop for well over a decade. As a teenager she graced the Thursday morning airwaves on Southern Maine community radio appearing as a guest on a friend’s show under the guise of “Guitar Girl.” As a listener and aspiring musician I was always impressed by her bravado to perform live on air. Since then, O’Leary has honed her serious commitment to song writing and used that same bravado to create a playfully mature record.