I received an email from a tremendously enthusiastic musician by the name of Alejandra O’Leary. (Hi, Alejandra!)
Before I go on, I’d just like to say that I think Alejandra’s full name is splendid. I love the unlikeliness of it. (Like “Franciscus Smyth-Biggins”, or “Bjorn McSporran”, or “Trevor M’bokopappamoko” etc etc).
Alejandra let me know about her latest album, Broken Mirror Baby, so I had a listen. I thought the songs were enjoyable. However, there’s a huge but…*
…but I found Alejandra’s voice problematic. I like the timbre of her voice – it’s sort of a little-girl / girl-group / cute-cute-cute sound, and I like that kind of voice a lot – but it’s the intonation that’s not good news.
I don’t want to criticise Alejandra’s voice too much, because she’s a better singer than I am (you really don’t want to hear me sing) – but Alejandra has recorded this CD and I’m mildly surprised that she’s allowed her singing as it currently sounds on the record to be presented to the public. I found the intonation (i.e., pitch) painfully insecure. With home recording nowadays, musicians have the luxury of being able to record take after take until they’re happy with what they’ve done. (Of course, musicians can go overboard with their recordings, spending way too much time correcting tiny things until they’ve made something completely flawless, fault-free, polished and sterile, without a hint of humanity.) So I thought Alejandra may have had the chance to take her recording away and tinker with her vocals (doing a retake here, a retouch there) until they were all in tune – or perhaps slightly less out of tune. Maybe Alejandra was going for a rough’n’raucous vibe with her vocals. But I don’t quite understand why, because the rest of the record (instrumentation, performance, recording) is neither rough nor raucous.
So the upshot of this gingerly offered review is that I liked the songs but I didn’t like the singing.
I have a terrible confession to make (sorry about this, Alejandra – you can cover your eyes now if you want to): Whilst listening to the songs, I actually winced a few times. I don’t know if I’m sensitive to vocal intonation or anything (I don’t think I have perfect pitch, so it’s not that), but I do have a problem when things aren’t in tune, whether they be vocals or instruments. It makes no difference to me – if something’s out of tune, I tend to cringe because to me it’s incredibly noticeable, wherever it is.
I don’t want to make a big deal out of this. Alejandra’s vocals may not bother you anywhere near as much as they did me.
I also don’t want to end this post on a sour note (yep, pun intended), because I really don’t like bagging** people, so I’ll mention the things I liked.
“What are the things you liked?” I hear you ask.
I’m glad you asked. I can say that what I liked about Alejandra’s songs were the song structures, instrumentation, playing, and recording quality. Although I didn’t think the vocal melodies were terribly strong, I thought they suited the songs. It all made for what I’d consider to be “relaxed songs” – songs that took their time unfolding.
How about I let you hear the songs for yourself? That way, you can decide whether the last few paragraphs were horrendously unfair to a tremendously enthusiastic musician…
Alejandra O’Leary – “@ The Club” (2011)
Alejandra O’Leary – “When Will They Learn?” (2011)
Alejandra O’Leary – “Broken Mirror Baby” (2011)
Alejandra O’Leary – Broken Mirror Baby – Album Promo from jfrey1 on Vimeo.
(*No jokes please.)