Years ago when I first saw Alessi’s Ark live she appeared like she’d come to the gig straight from school, such was her youthful naivety. Time certainly flies as she’s now 27 and releasing her fourth album. Thankfully some of that original sweet innocence can still be heard on this new album Love is the Currency. She has also developed and expanded the sonic ambition of her music, working with some of The Macabees and their producer.
The album opens with a musical invite to a lush landscape, where love is a Portal to the immortal. Alessi speaks the opening lines but soon allows her voice to shimmer. We’ve got to upgrade our lives, she says and it feels quite prescient for the times. The song has touches of psychedelic folk to it but there’s an openness and pop sensibility here which never allows it to turn too weird or pretentious.
You could say that Cut the Cord is as close to a ‘hit’ as Alessi has ever recorded, a song which uses layers of synths and electronica to create something you could actually dance to. This song has had support from 6 Music and you can understand why, as it is the kind of optimistic indie pop that never fails to brighten your mood – reminiscent of Bombay Bicycle Club.
Love Travels swirls beautifully, flourishing into a little wonder. River is more introspective lyrically but the music keeps it light – synths have rarely sounded this warm and luscious. She talks to the river but it feels like we’re right there next to her at the water’s edge. Flow river, flow river, flow right over me. That may sound dark but she doesn’t want to drown, this about washing yourself clean and starting again anew.
I really like the way the layers of sound are built on this album so that what could be a simple folk song becomes something more distinctive, like on Stray and Wives. The latter is one of the most interesting songs on the record, about the complex concept of marriage and gender roles. Despite the anxiety about being a wife, in the end love is the currency that wins out over the patriarchy.
Desert is a straight indie pop tune, and this more retro feel blends well, even if it is a safe choice compared to the expansive design heard elsewhere. The album finishes with On ‘Till Dawn which is the soundtrack to a nightime drive on the open road. There’s a dreamy atmosphere created right up to the end.
It’s perfect then that one of the songs on this album is called Lovely, since there’s no better word to sum up Alessi’s Ark. Love is the Currency is a river with many interesting bends and currents, an album worth dipping more than your toes in.