Mesa, Arizona born singer/songwriter Sydney Alese’s release Time might initially appear to be yet another entry in the Blonde Female Pop Singer Sweepstakes, but even the briefest listen to the album will dispel such notions. Her young age is no deterrent to writing songs reverberating with the experience and observations of an unusually perceptive and gifted writer and performer. Don’t let anything about her status as an independent artist mislead you into believing her production values are likely to be low. It’s clear by the conclusion of the first track that she and any collaborators took great care in constructing the best possible representation of her art.
Openers have obvious and crucial importance, so Alese puts her best foot forward with the title track kicking things off. This is a compelling menagerie of sound centered on electronica and shows tremendous understanding of dynamics. The song’s arrangement moves and shifts with such intensity that you might be tempted into believing it capable of obscuring Alese’s voice, but her vocal instrument proves as malleable as the music and she is never displaced as the song’s emotional center. “Light My World” has an outstanding vocal arrangement and a childlike adoration that never sounds tacky thanks to its immediate and clear sincerity. The acoustic guitar work is tasteful, but the crowning touch of understated percussion adds further color.
“Pass You By” has an infectious tempo and raucous guitars that gleefully romps while Alese proves her surprising mettle as a convincing rock singer. Like much of her material, Alese’s explores alternating light and shadow in the music to great effect. “Inspire” has a lush, luxurious tone and lovely touches of acoustic guitar that help strengthen the song’s beautifully melodic flourishes. Her talents as a vocalist extend far beyond performance – she has an instinctive sense for where her vocal lines should fall and her melodies are a high point of each track. The winding light rock melody of “The Beautiful Truth” powers another love song, but even these moments that seem to collide headlong with cliché are avoided thanks to her attention to detail and lack of overstatement. The dark keyboards and sequencers opening “Prisoner” usher in a moody reflection on thwarted longing, but despite the technological engine fueling the track, it’s an intensely human effort thanks to Alese’s emotive vocal.
Any concerns about the quality of a song entitled “I Found My Bliss” are unwarranted. This isn’t some lowest common denominator nosedive hoping to score attention by co-opting a popular phrase, but a brilliant slice of pure pop song craft. The guitars and drumming helps build the arrangement up to an assortment of biting climaxes that keep the listener hoping for more, but the melody once again is the defining quality that imprints the track into memory. The album’s finale, “Rave”, ends Time on an exultant note. It has higher artistic intentions as well. There’s a consistent point of view driving this collection that’s rare in these circles and the final track works, not only as supreme musical entertainment demanding its listeners enjoy themselves, but also as a personal statement that in the face of life’s disappointments and its unstoppable march forward, Sydney Alese wants us all to continuing loving, living, and creating.
8 out of 10 stars