Halftime Leisure

Critical Voices: Generationals, Alix

September 19, 2014

Any band foraying into the realm of indie-pop can attest to the difficulties that this genre presents. Trying to create a catchy, high-energy sound without coming across as empty and shallow is difficult. Alix, the fourth studio album by Generationals, straddled this fine line deftly. The New Orleans, indie-pop duo, born from the high school friendship of Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer, put forth a bouncy, energetic sound which remains relatively cohesive throughout the album. Somewhat of a blend between Bombay Bicycle Club and Mike Snow, Alix’s sound is pulsating and pop-like, while still remaining innovative.

One of the high points of the album is its fifth track, “Reading Signs.” Breaking out of a seemingly softer introduction, the song proceeds to overlay a deep bass track with an almost bubbly beat, and the melody remains intact throughout the song. The beat progresses throughout the song and retains its pep and vibrance amid emotional, varying vocals.

The success of Alix at simultaneously maintaining a vibrant sound and lyrical substance marks an important point in the evolution of Generationals. The duo’s previous album, Heza, released in 2013, provided substantial depth and its sound generated a pleasant listening experience, but was at points laborious and unmemorable. Conversely, in 2011, the band released Actor-Caster, which maintained more musical complexity, but largely came off trite and lyrically empty.

In addition to helping foster an ideal sound,Alix’s producer, Richard Swift, can also be credited for much of the lyrical depth of the album. When asked about working with Swift, the band called the experience “both terrifying and horrifying,” and added that Swift “forced us—physically at times—to look inside ourselves and face the dark emptiness in our own hearts.” Such emotional evaluation comes through clearly throughout Alix, despite the fact that the band makes an effort to mask its depth by subtling weaving it throughout the work rather than overtly declaring it. Instead of using the self-reflection led by Swift to create an openly somber sound, Generationals crafted an album that is simultaneously upbeat and able to pose evocative questions.

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Take, for example, the album’s opening track, “Black Lemon.” Spliced with a springy, synthy beat, the song represents a reflection on life’s challenges and the manner in which one responds.The song’s energy and cogency make the climactic refrain, “I’ll just close my eyes,” resonate even more profoundly.

Generationals will be at the 9:30 Club on October 11.

Voice’s Choices: “Black Lemon,” “Reading Signs”

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They went to my high school!