Ethereally arranged piano keys strike like lightning over a calm and desolate backdrop as we enter “Pink Coloured Sky,” the opening track on Monique Angele’s new album Alive, but their elegiac tone isn’t unaccompanied. It’s skewed by a passionate yearning from Angele’s vocal that ensnares us in its compelling hooks and quickly drags us asunder with the weight of its surreal lyricism. The keys dance like the flames of a wildfire, cutting through the silence with impunity and leaving a reverberating trail of emotion behind them, but nothing can break our concentration on Angele’s voice, which is at once all-powerful and yet light as a feather as the track fades away and we descend upon the pensive and soul-laden “I Want a World.”
“I Want a World” is built almost exclusively on the foundation of Angele’s serenade, but it doesn’t edge out the chic piano track so much as to minimize its acrylic texture. In the music video for the star single “Hold On,” intercut visuals of Angele playing the piano on an isolated stage and her discovering a shattered mirror in the middle of an otherwise picture-perfect setting challenge us to dig deep and think about the deeper meaning within the song’s prismatic poetry and the narrative it’s conveying to us. In the video’s climax, she takes one of the shards of glass laying beneath the mirror and places it where it once belonged, but the passive expression she makes says it all; in this inspirational gesture, she essentially summarizes the very concept of Alive, and moreover, her self-aware approach to songwriting.
The bouncy “Our Paradise” kicks off in a kaleidoscopic flurry of keys that eventually give way to a fiery, rock-influenced breakdown that Angele manages surprisingly well given her typically tender style of attack vocally. It’s not the emotional tour de force that “Forever Strong” is, but then again, very few songs could be. Every one of these tracks gives off an honest, organic impression that Angele isn’t just singing about humanity, but rather from personal experiences and internal contemplations born of relationships forged in real life. Her prose is rooted in personable intimacy, but it never drifts into egocentricity. Angele is an amazing singer and pianist, but there’s just as much to be said about her incomparable chops as a composer.
Alive comes to a close with the pendulous, classical “Rare Girl,” which to me bears a strong resemblance to WWII-era vocal pop without crossing the line between homage and imitation. When its gentle keys finally cease to play and we’re left only with the echo of Angele’s studded crooning circulating through the atmosphere, the temptation to play the entire record over again is a potent one to say the least. Whether you’re familiar with her work or are just now discovering her impeccable talents through this intrepidly designed disc, you really can’t go wrong with what Monique Angele has delivered for us in Alive. This doesn’t just elevate her status as a serious player in the industry; it raises the bar for her entire scene.