SADDLE CREEK 24th September, 2021
Alexandra Levy is a French-Canadian from Montreal and this is an involving album of songs. With an up close and personal tone, these feel like bedsit confessionals, except they aren’t; this is Ada’s second album and she’s recorded them with a band of session musicians, effectively and atmospherically. She still gives of the air, lyrically, of someone with a guitar, perched on a piece of second-hand furniture in a room that smells of last night’s takeaway. That’s how she wants it, I think.
Written whilst an artist in residence, this draws on her love of literature and you’ll find throwaway references to Blake, Proust, and others. Songs may or may not be personal. Maybe lived experience, maybe the felt experience of her imagination or a good novel. Songs, despite the personal feel, have polished arrangements with a full band. Perhaps the reason it moves along nicely is Levy’s study of the jazz bass. The feel moves from finger-picking to AOR to radio-friendly smooth to chanson. Taking her demos, Levy trekked to LA, where she eked out an existence on tinned food while the album was recorded and mixed.
Songs never get speedy or rocky, they move at the pace of of Ada walking across the city. She’s also proud enough of the songs to be releasing a book of lyrics and chords and arty enough to have a map of where the songs are set. Characters may cross from one song to another but never in the sense of a story cycle or concept album – this is more in the way of the way memory wanders from thing to thing. Her voice can be half-whispered, crooning or high-pitched and vulnerable.
She could actually have a hit in ‘Writer In New York’, with it’s dreams of moving away and catchy / inspiring chorus of; “Nothing’s going to bring me down”. ‘Violence’ is equally anthemic but the buzzing-dying-bee-fuzz sound isn’t going to win over the radio. That’s not your problem and you can wallow in the thoughts drifting and stories unfolding, from the angry to the wistful but rarely to the resigned, except in closer, ‘Hurt’, where she digs into a painful relationship and tells us what she could choose to do, but prefers instead to sit in a room and feel.
It’s a personal yet novelistic, angsty yet occasionally anthemic, intimate yet insulated, collection.