The first solo release from Alex Di Leo, former member of South Florida’s Wyld Fly, is a six song collection sure to make some noise for him as one of the more promising performers to emerge this year. So We Go is a thoroughly modern album with a traditional aesthetic – five star pop songs are coupled with unusual textures but remain focused all the while on fundamentals. Nothing here is forced or self-indulgent. Di Leo combines substantive statement with entertaining pop textures and achieves an excellent balance between the two. The production has a theatrical aspect and casts much of the material in an artful echo; some might find that a distraction, but many will appreciate the added atmosphere it brings to the album.
The title song opens So We Go with some brightly hued, energetic pop. Much of the song is influenced by eighties pop and the upbeat jauntiness of the song ushers listeners into the album in a memorable way. Di Leo has a voice geared towards upper register work, but it isn’t all hollow pyrotechnics and, instead, he invests the phrasing with feeling and technique alike. “Making It Easier” carries on with a similar pop approach though the main instrumental focus shifts to piano here. There’s a decided Coldplay influence in this, but if anything, it’s much more musically changing thanks to the sheer variety of moods and tempos Di Leo explores within such a small space of time. Each section of the song, likewise, holds together and never feels arbitrarily melded together. “Reason” has a much more organic feel than the two previous songs, in no small part thanks to the beautifully melodic acoustic guitar, but even the vocal has a much more spontaneous feel. Di Leo certainly can’t resist exercising his pop sensibilities some over the song and it enriches the listening experience.
“When We First Met” will recall the artsy, alternative rock musings of bands like Fleet Foxes, but the resemblance has everything to do with the self-consciously ambient production style they are aiming for and the similarly geared vocal harmonies. “I’ve Been Waiting” stresses how important discreet keyboard support is for this collection. The light electronic touches flesh out an otherwise simple and direct folk song with impressive strains of color. The EP’s final track, “Waking Up”, is a solid piece of songwriting for the multiple meanings it suggests, but moreover for its sturdy construction. The relatively unadorned opening has the vocals and piano playing off each other, but it soon balloons into a much wider musical experience complete with a full band treatment. The soaring harmonies of the chorus are particularly effective.
It ends So We Go on a appropriately grand and stirring note. Alex Di Leo possesses an unique ability to invest even the simplest structures with accoutrements that enhance it immeasurably, but it likewise retrains the good artistic judgment to apply such touches in a judicious fashion. He’s surrounded himself with a first class group of collaborators and they help him realize the potential of this release in a glorious way.