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Album Review

On their full debut release, Alexander & the Grapes at times show a little more promise than a lot of 2010s indie rock out there just by looking back a touch to an earlier generation for a guide on where to go. Admittedly, as the opening "Another Year" shows, it's clear enough that the band generally purveys some dude-friendly (and dude-sung) indie rock being all generally thoughtful about things as one could want, so there's little in the way of surprise. What's more enjoyable is the music and arrangement, a little bit of atmospherics and chime that wends an '80s/'90s path of indie/gaze in the slightly artful corner — not quite For Against or Adorable or the Church, but just around the same location in terms of inspiration. When Hemispheres hits those points, as on songs like "East Coast," which moodily burns up to a slow surge of a chorus, or the rumbling ebb and flow of the drumless "Chuck Stewart Has a Dream," a slow chant of a performance, things really gel nicely for the band. "Swan Song," while not the actual closing song of the album, provides a great penultimate number, with a spiky, nagging guitar line over soft singing. Otherwise things are generally more pleasant but unmemorable — their embrace of quieter numbers isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but there's a feeling of fairly rote approaches. But they can catch the ear here and there, and they have a knack for ending songs on a strong note. The soft overlay of whooshing noise and nervous energy toward the end of the somewhat lugubrious "Where I Go" and the sudden stop of a conclusion on "Ocean" add a feeling of just strong enough melodrama. Meanwhile, the out-of-nowhere trumpet break on "Can't Waste Too Much Time," in combination with the brushed drums, fully brings a feeling — or a touch of a feeling — of late-night jazz bars, somewhere in a dark night.

Hemispheres, Alexander & The Grapes
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