Critical Voices: Alpha Rev, Bloom

March 21, 2013

Formed in the wake of the breakup of frontman Casey McPherson’s previous band Endochine, the stalwart crew of Austin rockers known as Alpha Rev has climbed the Texas indie chart with three full-length LPs built around McPherson’s vocal range. Alpha Rev’s most recent album, Bloom, utilizes his practiced voice against a soothing musical backdrop to bring compelling soft alternative rock into the world.

McPherson boasts pleasant and consistent talent, serving as the force holding the LP together. At times he even matches Coldplay’s Chris Martin for crafting a sweet tone to accompany lighthearted lyrics, driving all ten tracks. Instrumentation takes a clear backseat to singing, occasionally fading behind high-pitched backup harmonies and McPherson’s overwhelming volume.

From the album opener, “Lexington,” the listener cannot escape this dominance. The entire song builds up an increasingly droning musical background to the chorus, broken only by a brief guitar solo near the end.

Though subdued, the instrumentation also manages to demonstrate a palpable virtuosity. The album’s single, “Sing Loud,” for instance, showcases the depth of the band’s rhythm section. Alpha Rev combines an organ, drums, piano, and acoustic guitar to follow McPherson’s triumphant chorus. The rhythm on “Highways” perpetuates this role in a similarly masterful manner as pounding drums provide a welcome contrast to a soft piano pattern.

Lyrically, Bloom is a vivid reflection of Alpha Rev’s Texan origin. Many songs, like the uniquely dark and moody “Lonely Man,” tell of rides across the country and paint scenes of the surrounding natural beauty. For every line of imagery detailing a sprawling countryside, however, there are two romantic eye-rollers. In spite of vocal prowess, this diction lacks the seriousness required to add any manner of emotional depth to Bloom.

While Bloom certainly will satisfy anyone looking for a pleasant soft rock and a focus on varying vocal styles, it can hardly be described as worthy of a second listen. Alpha Rev’s focus on pouring nearly every instrument into the background noise succeeds in creating a complex rhythm, but alternative rock demands more than just vocals and rhythm. McPherson’s knack for singing sweet tunes simply fails to bloom in this hostile environment.

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