Lex Allen has been making your soul pop for years with singles and features, but now it's time to deliver his proper debut. A rising singer from Milwaukee Allen has been steadily growing in both notoriety in skill. Earlier singles, "Mama's Boy," named one of the best soul and R&B songs of 2017 by Paste Magazine, and the body-positive "Venus and Serena," have made him a Midwest mainstay. After years of hard work within the Milwaukee scene, Allen is ready to burst onto the mainstage with his debut album, Table 7: Sinners & Saints.
Table 7 opens with a potent mission statement: "Never Look Back." The soul pop singer's usually bubbling vocals are replaced with a more tempered and rich delivery, beginning the record with an introspective verse that erupts into an anthemic chorus. "Day dream 'til I made it," he sings on the second verse, inspiring listeners and breaking down the essence of his career. The opening cut proves Allen to be a fighter in the purest sense, but Table 7 doesn't limit itself to the journey of overcoming, the album also makes ample room for celebration.
Varied, lush, and focused, Table 7 has the bass-heavy and dance-inducing "Struck Gold," where Allen is flaunting his coin with equal parts camp and grit. It's within this ability to balance traditional hip-hop and R&B tropes with pop sensibilities, along with his own glittering and freed personality, that Lex Allen can make such charismatic and striking music.
Even so, these tropes are given a new life with the looming and grandiose "Palace of Love." Where would expect a party tracked laced with dark sonics and images of cocaine to unquestionably bang, Allen adds a haunting depth to the affair. Even the skittering "Bitch U Fabulous" has a subversive element with the grain of lo-fi vocals. Crunching claps and vocal pitching elevate the track from the banal qualities of other self-love anthems. This really is music for the sinner and the saint, for the monsters in the night, for the club kids, and for the kids spinning through sunny fields.
Of course, the centerpiece of the album is the aforementioned "Mama's Boy." A gutting piano ballad, Allen hands over his whole heart with a slight creak in his voice. The writing is not overly ornate, relying on the simple truths of loss ("I miss you always worrying about me") to carry the weight of the track. It is a solemn and intimate moment made beautiful and accessible, a stunning tribute with several glimmers of hope. Closing out with aching high notes and harmonies, "Mama's Boy" cuts deep and establishes Lex Allen as a brilliant songwriter and arranger.
Table 7: Sinners & Saints is a testament to timing. Lex Allen could have dropped a full length debut at any point in his numerous years on the scene, but this muggy East Coast Friday, looking back to all the other potential Fridays, is the clear choice. The music is the most mature and leveling he's ever crafted. He staves off over-sentimentality and drowning in the candy-coated nature of big pop tunes. He approaches this album with balance and measure, and because of that, we can consider Table 7 to be the start of his proper musical legacy.