Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
Isaac Alexander may be the most multi-talented musician in Little Rock. When he's not playing drums for the Boondogs, he's playing guitar and fronting the Easys and Big Silver or he's doing album cover artwork for various folks. And now he's gone solo with “See Thru Me.”
Coming off last year's brilliant “Blood Capsule” by the Easys (one of my absolute favorite discs in the Max Recordings catalog; please go buy or download a copy now), Alexander has stripped down his sound and honed in on what he does best: moody songs of resignation that somehow stop short of full despair.
There's plenty of existential angst throughout, with song titles like “Fate Wins,” “Angel of Death” and “Nothing is Something.” As a line from “Dangerous” declares over a bed of parlor piano and bargain keyboards, “I used to hate the sound of my own voice / I used to beg for freedom, now I hate to have a choice.” And in the title cut, women aren't to be trusted, with their “lashes like sharpened knives.” Still there is an odd optimism on “Nothing is Something”: “If it's nothing at all then it's something.”
The one break in the clouds is “Future Feels Fine,” the only song with a tempo above a walking pace, in which Alexander tells his protagonist to “Stop that crying / Don't you know it never did any good.”
With that exception, the songs on “See Thru Me” are relentlessly downcast, but in the best way possible. If you're the type of person who can truly enjoy a gray rainy day, then you'll appreciate the album's subtle charms.