|Album Review: Harley Alexander - I'm Feeling Things|
I'm Feeling Things
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If you stumble into a cutesy cafe in Eastern Canada — let's say in the heart of the harbouring hub that is Halifax, Nova Scotia — there is a good chance you may find Harley Alexander, sipping on a fair trade coffee thinking up his next big purpose. The chosen impetus for this season culminates in I'm Feeling Things, a six-song EP that promises to be Alexander's most stripped-down, vulnerable, and raw tape to date. Released through OOF Records, Alexander endeavours to confront otherwise unexplored emotions through playful lyricism and a blatant disregard for fixed formulas.
Alexander pulls back the curtain to lasso a loving moment with the singles "Love Language" and "Green Pillow," – both of which feature on the EP – along with 2019's single "Riverbank," the final track on the album (sounding completely transformed from the original).
I'm Feeling Things appears to be Alexander's ninth "studio" album but estimations lead me to believe that, between different aliases and unreleased material, it's difficult to determine exactly how many albums have been recorded throughout his musical career.
What is posted on his Bandcamp, however, is equally puzzling. Projects that range from his first visible LP, Universal Love in 2014 to a three-song liberation EP, i choose myself, last year to now — Alexander doesn't care if or how you consume his music, so long as he can capture that moment in the present and unshackle whatever may be weighing him down during that particular instant.
The album opens with "Feeling Things," a delightful introduction into just how stripped-down and intimate this project will be. An abstract riff kicks off the track only to resolve into Alexander's vocals, allowing them to take centre stage. The lively lyrics incite an idea that sometimes you can't take life too seriously, and silliness is necessary to enduring emotional turbulence.
Coming to a head with drums that splash into an irresistible, shoulder-swaying beat, the track chugs along thanks to a groovy bass line which leads into call back harmonies — acting almost as a form of self-reflection done by Esten Beedell and Blair Cote, longtime friends of Alexander.
Those harmonies carry over into the following track, "Green Pillow," joined by Alexander and his classic guitar tone. As he speaks words of wisdom the guitar suddenly drops into a witty, disarming walk down.
Alexander touches on themes of nature and nurture, which is no surprise given his summers spent in the middle of nowhere on a cut block tree planting; witnessing the growth, patience, and support required for the tree and the planter.
As "Green Pillow" gives us a moment to breathe, the third track, which Alexander dubbed his favourite song on the EP, queues and holds up as a standout.
"Love Language" charges out of the gate with Alexander's vocals at the forefront once again. Not only the most intriguing track because of the musical arrangements, the lyrics are also genius – and drive the pace of the entire piece.
Alexander sings lightly, almost treading into spoken word territory, continuing themes of nature, growth, and support. From stardust to dinosaur bones, Alexander expresses a reopening to the world and an acceptance of love. Between extremely staunch guitar breaks and irresistibly catchy lyrics, it is hard to think of a band that really replicates a sound quite like that found in "Love Language."
The fourth track, "No More Tries," arrives with his signature wavering guitar, which slows the tempo from the previous track. This change signifies the confrontation of Alexander's insecurities head-on, boasting some of his most revealing lyrics to date.
This harsh-but-honest evaluation of everyday depressives is a model heart-wrench track. Alexander includes one of these on almost every album. The straightforward instrumentation is exactly what the Toronto-born, Ottawa-raised artist had in mind for a release like this.
Bringing back themes of nature and the freedom that it provides, the fifth track "Exactly You Now" is again, a lyrical masterpiece as well as a lovely arranged song. Between melodic rhythm guitar and a befittingly warm bassline, Alexander returns to concepts of space, reliance, and once again, support.
With a concentrated, carelessness to his vocals, Alexander encourages others to lean on him — the epitome of self-acceptance and acceptance of others. As the pleasant Frankie Cosmos sounding guitar rides shotgun to his leading vocals, you can't help but wonder if Alexander too, is calling for someone to lean on.
The final track, "Riverbank," was originally the very first single released in November of 2019, however, the track has been completely revamped with a whole new section along with saxophone accompaniment as the cherry on top.
Similarly to "Love Language," "Riverbank" begins with Alexander's vocals as the star of the meteor shower. Complimented by saxophones calling back the melody of his vocals, this track proves to be an immediate classic rooted in a comparable vein as to that of Texas-duo, Hovvdy.
The saxophone and background vocals are done by another one of Alexander's pals, Campbell Bingbong —are you noticing a trend here? Harley collaborating with a bunch of buddies because, well, that's his process: surrounding himself with comfortable, compatible compadres. From compilations with several other East Coast regulars to collaborations with The Everywheres and Charlotte Day Wilson, it's all about spreading the love.
As "Riverbank" proceeds to borrow previous themes of growth and support, it is clear that with the album nearing its end that Alexander isn't going to simply close the door into his heart but rather leave it open a crack for a reliable nightlight or breeze of fresh air.
Recorded for the most part last year from Ottawa to Halifax, Alexander wrote all the songs and plays all the drums, bass and guitar on I'm Feeling Things. Harland Alexander, the living example of a loose denim sleeve hanging about from a suitcase, flapping in the Canadian winds.