Imitation or dedication? Alex the Astronaut’s To Whom It May Concern
by Grace Marks
Sydney born, 21-year-old, Alex the Astronaut is in New York at the moment, studying maths and physics on a soccer scholarship. Science and soccer aside, Alex is also an up and coming Australian singer/songwriter. Having grown up listening to Paul Kelly and David Bowie, Alex believes that it’s the small insignificant happenings in this world that need a voice and she intends to give them one.
Her five song EP To Whom It May Concern dances poetically past your periphery like a ballerina that is practicing before show time; slightly rusty yet still effortlessly divine. Lyrically, this collection of songs speaks to the youth of today; the high hopes they have, the mundane struggles they face whilst also pointing out some depressing political issues including reference to current world leaders.
With the calming palette of Lisa Mitchell or Missy Higgins and the spoken style of Bob Dylan; Alex’s indie-pop genre reels her audience in from the very first line. Deviating away from typical song writing, Alex places importance on the prose she uses, crafting each song to vividly cast a picture in your mind. The EP is a collection of anecdotes, a crafty and very current trend in the indie-pop music scene at the moment. This creative angle makes those who listen feel as if they have opened her diary and are sneaking a peak at her musings; the good and the grit – especially the grit. Music lovers want reality, a reflection of the world they are living in.
Already Home is the first song in the collection and one of the strongest. The track begins with guitar and drums as the focus then builds on itself with a symphony of orchestral sounds entwining their way into the tune. Percussion features throughout where the familiar bang of the tambourine sets the tone of the track ushering it along in a calm, understated accent. Her drifting, optimistic voice embeds hope into the lyrics as she speaks to “the kids on the school bus” and notes the tough world they are venturing into: one with “billionaires for presidents, and parking fines at hospitals.” Alex speaks to an entire generation.
Rockstar City is a standout on the EP. It’s an account of her move to New York. Beginning with a fast paced guitar riff, an upbeat piano appearance and even a kazoo to get the catchy tune skipping along, Alex builds the songs in a layering effect ─ peaking three quarters of the way through with a violin cementing the songs magnitude. She speaks about her nervousness when performing in front of a large crowd for the first time. Alex is able to make this selective experience relatable, by focusing on her excitement to tell her mum, knowing how proud she would be. This transcends to all listeners; speaking to children and adults alike. It is these inclusive stories throughout the EP that make it memorable and meaningful.
Third in line is the relatively brief Holes in the Story. Alex throws her listeners off with the song being uncannily similar to Paul Kelly’s To Her Door. Kelly’s introduction is memorable; the quick riff is mesmerising. The beginning of Alex’s Holes in the Story has a painfully similar chord progression as Kelly’s arguably most famous hit. Whether it was intended as an ode or if it was over exposure of Kelly’s work, it creates an unsettling start to a song as the listener is expecting something different to what they are dished up. Only the artist can shed light on her intention. It’s up to Alex if she wants to be transparent about the similarity of the two songs.
The final song I Believe in Music cements my earlier comments with the first line being “for my seventh birthday, I was given a CD player and I played Paul Kelly again and again and again.” It seems the repetition has worked its way into the crafting of Holes in the Story. Despite this, the final tune leaves listeners with something that is stripped back and beautiful. The lyrics are spoken from the heart and the acoustic guitar sound is delicate, allowing full emphasis to be placed on the tales being told in the lyrics. This simple melody is relatively short, at only two minutes and twenty seven seconds, it’s a non-threatening, subtle wave goodbye to listener as they finished her collection of music. The song embodies the idea that Alex’s hope lies with the power of music. She finishes by cementing her values in the forefront of the listener mind, an example of clever song writing.
Alex the Astronaut is an impressive singer / songwriter and To Whom It May Concern showcases her as a promising Australian storyteller to watch.