Release Date: Nov 18, 2016
Record label: Weird World
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Pop
A singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles, Alex Izenberg spent a period of five years beginning in his late teens writing and recording material to be culled for his debut album. Working in various spaces and under pseudonyms, Izenberg remained deliberately off the radar until he and co-producers Ari Balouzian (Tobias Jesso, Jr.) and Dash LeFrancis (Vas Defrans) fine-tuned his particular take on chamber pop. If carefully constructed, the resulting set is far from refined on the unabashedly oddball Harlequin.
The lovelorn ’70s singer-songwriter archetype hangs well on Alex Izenberg. Achieving that pre-familiarity comes a little easier when Linda Perry buys you your first guitar and your band goes on tour with Roger Daltrey before you’re halfway through your twenties. But though his songs carry deep echoes of Harry Nilsson and Elton John AM radio and the timeless tropes of falling for an unavailable woman and the like, he’s a Millennial at heart.
Los Angeles songwriter Alex Izenberg describes his debut album as the culmination of five years of writing and recording, which is a long time for a record that feels like the product of a few casual studio sessions. A modernist spin on the ’70s singer-songwriter album, grounded in the same evergreen themes of longing and heartache, Harlequin often seems torn between its ambition and its nonchalance. At times Izenberg shows flashes of Van Dyke Parks’ compositional bravado, but just as often he handicaps himself with Dollar Store chamber-pop accompaniments.
Alex Izenberg recognises just how delightfully weird niche sub-genre chamber pop can actually be. Writing standard pop songs and lightly coating them in strings is one thing, but Izenberg is augmenting his reedy, rusty tenor with dissonant orchestral melodies, all with a hearty splash of the surreal. Izenberg is a singer-songwriter and storyteller in the manner of Tobias Jesso Jr.
On his debut album, the LA singer-songwriter Alex Izenberg harks back to a stuffy 1970s studio. Chamber pop is combined with a kind of off-ish folk reminiscent of English pre-glam. Unfortunately,his offerings don’t come with a similar level of showmanship. Instead, Izenberg’s breathy voice gets buried behind perfectly pleasant but usually banal instrumentation.