Review Summary: Forget what you know about Eyes Set to Kill. Alexia's first solo album is a solid collection of emotive electronic music that only suffers from the sparse acoustic tracks that close it out.
When Alexia Rodriguez spoke about her first solo album she stated that she “… once heard someone say that the true sign of a timeless song is whether it can be taken from one format to another, like electric to acoustic, and still have it be a great song." With that statement, I envisioned an album of acoustic tracks that Alexia would be ill-equipped to do anything with. I don’t mean to imply that she lacks talent, because Eyes Set to Kill
proves that she is a capable musician. It just seems to be a lot harder for artists to write stripped down songs that are still interesting – especially for artists that generally specialize in heavier music. It turns out, though, that my initial assumptions were wrong on multiple levels. First of all, Underground Sounds
isn’t just Alexia and her acoustic guitar, and second, it’s actually really good.
Admittedly, the sound of poppy electronics and bouncy synth was the very last thing that I expected, but opening track, “Basements,” is just that – and it’s excellent. Alexia sings beautifully over the energetic bubble-gum beat and new age synths, and her voice is more emotionally expressive than it has ever been. The next surprise is that subsequent tracks drop the bubble-gum pop in favor of dark, moody electronic pieces that creep forward providing outstanding foundations for Alexia’s vocals. These songs take chill beats and layers of melodic electronics and simply let Alexia’s voice shine. Fans of Eyes Set to Kill can refer to “Let Me In” from Broken Frames
or “Come Home” from The World Outside
for good examples of what to expect from her solo album.
Despite offering up a few tracks to help people understand what kind of album this is, there isn’t really a single song that could truly provide a complete preview of what to expect. For example, “Over” is a solid trip-hop track, complete with a deep bass undercurrent and another excellent vocal performance from Alexia. In contrast, “Reach” is simply Alexia and her acoustic guitar covering a song that she has probably played a thousand times before – which segues perfectly into the album’s only real issue. If Underground Sounds
had maintained its electronic direction for the duration of its play time it would have been near-flawless, but the last few tracks switch over to an acoustic guitar-dominated orientation that feels a bit empty after the lush music that preceded it. There’s nothing really inherently wrong with the acoustic songs, they simply feel a bit apathetic and underdeveloped after the lush arrangements of the first two-thirds of the album.
Alexia Rodriguez’s decision to go with an electronics-dominated direction for most of the album was a risk, but it worked out perfectly. The moody pieces allow Alexia’s vocals to be featured front-and-center and she carries each song admirably. It’s doesn’t hurt that she has grown to be a very competent vocalist that doesn’t always get a chance to shine with her full time band. In fact, the electronics angle works so well that it ends up making the acoustic tracks that close out the album sound a bit lacking – despite the fact that they’re still very enjoyable due to the prominence of Alexia’s vocals. Overall, Underground Sounds
might be a bit of a challenge for fans of Eyes Set to Kill to get into, but if they choose to focus on the lack of distortion and aggression it will be their loss. For everyone else, if you can forget everything that you think you know about Alexia’s full-time band and just go into this expecting solid and expressive electronic songs, you should come out on the other end a satisfied listener.