Alex Hirsch - Naturally...
1997/2006/2010, Key Wins Productions
You might say that Alex Hirsch was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but all of the silver in the world can’t make up for talent. Hirsch has proven his talent over the years, collaborating with folks such as Elliot Randall, Ice-T, Bionik, Too Short and Griffen. Alex Hirsch is the son of actor Judd Hirsch (Taxi, Dear John, NUMB3RS) and has certainly benefited accordingly, but Alex’s approach to music has always had a DIY slant. A few years back Hirsch borrowed money from family members and started his own record label, Key Wins Productions, focusing on releasing albums made with real instruments by real people. Hirsch’s latest album, Naturally…, is steeped in highly original songwriting that blends progressive and classic rock styles with doses of 1960’s psychedelia and jazz.
Naturally… opens with “Martian Advance”, featuring churning guitars and an exotic progressive rock sound ala The Rheostatics. Lyrically the song is more of a riff than a complete idea, but the grand crests and theatric turns play like a film score element. “Naturally” is ethereal rock with a lot of open space in the arrangement all done up in reverb. It’s a love song full of sadness and memory; Hirsch’s lyrics are intelligent if a bit off the map for your typical love song. You might be forgiven for thinking this is geek rock with a refined touch, as Hirsch mixes a distinctive breed of intelligentsia with a charismatically finessed low-fi sound. Hirsch takes on pure jazz form with “Structure”, offering wicked guitar and bass solos and filling in on piano is subtle but tangible fashion. Rush fans may be reminded of the sort of structure and style displayed on their Gangster of the Boats Trilogy.
“I Speak The Truth” is an odd bit of atypical blues featuring simply Hirsch and his guitar. Sparsely arranged and intriguing, the song is like eavesdropping on someone’s internal dialogue. “Nova” is a dreamy ode detailing the moment of falling in love in graphic detail, reveling in the wake of the emotional explosion. “Christine” revisits a chance meeting at the wrong time, where possibility and romance churn against limited time and circumstance in a mix of hope and frustration. The chorus on this song is hauntingly familiar. “One Confession” is an angry emotional jam with minimal lyrics. Dark and vibrant, the song is full of anger and seeks an answer in no uncertain terms. “5755” is dreamy 1960’s folk/pop ala Crosby, Stills and Nash written with a 1970’s singer/songwriter pastiche. Well constructed, this tune is simply a pleasure to listen to.
“Jail” is a jazzified rock composition with theatrical elements. There’s a diffuse sense of humor running through this song that’s mildly entertaining as well. “Girlfriend” is full of reverence; intelligent and off-beat. Hirsch moons in a stream-of-conscious vamp in a blend of spacey rock, jazz and singer-songwriter styling. The solo version of “Christine” sounds to be recorded live in the studio and is a bit more affecting than the standard version. Hirsch manages to capture a live energy in this recording that casts the song in a better light. “The Day” is a diffuse, open arrangement; a memorialization in song dotted with Branford Marsalis-style saxophone fills and runs. “Time And Space” plays like two songs. The first half is a long instrumental jam. Once the vocals kick in Hirsch creates vocal triads that sound a great deal like early 1980’s Asia. “Time And Space” has a finding-our-way feel to it that’s communicated in both the lyrics and arrangement, in what may be the most dynamic and original songwriting in a highly original collection of songs. Natually… closes with “Lennon”, a tribute to the ex-Beatle that’s both musically and emotionally committed. It’s a well-written and well-executed closer.
Alex Hirsch hits all of the right notes on Naturally…, following his muse wherever it leads. Influences run through the album in veins, playing off of Hirsch’s natural musical proclivities and creating dynamic musical moments, helped along by highly intelligent lyrics and an intense creativity that seemingly never rests. Naturally… is an exciting listen; you never know what’s around the next musical turn, or what else Hirsch might have up his sleeve. Naturally… is an album that will keep you coming back.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Alex Hirsch at www.alexhirsch.com or www.myspace.com/alexhirschmusic. Naturally... is available from Amazon.com as a CD or Download. The album is also available digitally from iTunes.