ALNA & Phil Sorrell – HEY YOU! – Album Review
I’m cracking right into this one…ALNA & Phil have given us a plethora of reasons to listen & I’ve got lots to say as always! Suffice it to say here in this brief intro – I’ve found tons to love in this album HEY YOU!
Love the bold piano melody that shines as this album begins with “Burned & Lost”…and the introduction that we get to ALNA’s vocals is excellent. Verses are on-point…but man-oh-man…that CHORUS though! Amazing. Beyond really. I wouldn’t have made a single complaint with the design of the melody in the verses to begin with and was already having an awesome time listening as this song played – but every single time they shifted into the slightly psychedelically-tinged sound & colorful vibes of the chorus…the emotion of the words just came pouring through the speakers in the most fantastic of ways. That one line in particular, “I have never felt so useless” comes out so magnificently it’s essentially incomparable – that perfect way of describing just how small we all are in comparison to the magnitude of what we face every day from our own thoughts & feelings, to the degree of the many issues that affect us all on this planet. That final shift from ALNA into the highlight ending she gives this song by just adding the one extra line towards the end that summons a bit more confidence in the spotlight is incredible – the kind of moment in a song that would make the entire venture in listening worthwhile for any set of ears – and a massive hint about the extraordinary capabilities she possesses as both a singer & entertainer. Call me crazy, but I think they’ve really stumbled onto one incredibly addictive hook here – it’s right there in that line I’ve previously cited already to start this review up – and it’s a line that you truly feel. Whether it’s the meaning behind the words that gets ya, or the stunning way ALNA sings it, or the brilliance shared between the atmosphere in the music & background vocals…there’s so much here in this first song straight outta the gate that “Burned & Lost” is likely to have just about everyone onboard.
Honestly, I think I’m just as interested about what the reaction to their title-track will be as I’m sure they are themselves…”Hey You!” is a wildly different tune in multiple ways, and a real statement to be put so far up front on the lineup. This is where you feel like you’ve jumped in with both feet here…you’re in Phil & ALNA’s world now…and if you were hesitating, it’s already too late for you to turn back now. “Hey You!” puts forth a fairly loose but wildly expressive style of song…ALNA shines just as brightly through her avant-garde vocalizations as she will through the direct words she sings, but make no mistake, the priority here is to create a track that’s gonna move you in a different way than most will. Think of it almost along the lines of something akin to Jazz when it comes to the flexible fluidity of the vocals – ALNA’s embracing the moment here and completely fearless when it comes to singing in every way…words are great obviously (says the writer), but she proves here that she doesn’t even really need’em! Her sleek tone of voice and willingness to express & emote in a variety of ways makes for a smorgasbord of entertainment for your ears, and the complementary way that Phil’s got the music set up for her to succeed throughout this record is continuously revealed through immaculate diversity. I ain’t gonna lie to ya – there IS risk in putting this song so far up front in the set-list – but at the same time, ALNA & Phil separate the willing from the waning right away. If creativity is your jam – be ready for an experience – “Hey You!” will give you a sample of this duo at their most expressive in many ways; it’s theatrical, dramatic, loaded with vibrant sound that rivals the degree of wild personality on display through the vocals…it’s less tangible in terms of a straight line from point-A to point-B, but sorry folks, more real art works that way, and that’s exactly what the music here could be well considered to be.
“Police” is definitely a tune I’d be taking an extremely hard look at as a potential single to release & gateway into this album for the people out there. Not only does it have one of the most memorable & heartfelt melodies you’ll find on the record, it’s also got one of the most sincere & relevant messages you’ll find applies to this entire planet right now as well. The way I look at it is this…”Police” – pardon my French here, but they’ve done fucked up supremely – if you’ve got someone as clearly sweet as ALNA is writing about how your trust has been diminished, believe me, it’s time to really take some stock of that. ALNA’s just about the last person you would want to not be on your side – and if she’s willing to take a time out here in the midst of such a serene & peaceful sound to point out the flaws in our society for a moment, we should be taking that to heart, truly. She’s never one to come out swinging too hard lyrically – ultimately, she’s still writing from a place of resolved commitment & ideals, but also understanding, hope, love, and support for the people on both sides of the thin blue line. “Police” are people just like we are…I think we all forget that sometimes, including the “Police” as well – this song is a powerful reminder of what’s going on out there in the world, helping shine a light on what needs to change…and perhaps most importantly, why. Tracks like these are an excellent inclusion to the album and provides an insight into the heart of who ALNA and Phil would be as individuals behind the scenes as well…think of “Police” as somewhat of a values-based song in that respect. I like that they’re not really disparaging anyone or anything too specifically here, rather generalizing in that sense, and recognizing an issue that’s super important to talk about right now. “Police” has a lot to offer ya through the insightful words and thought-provoking imagery you’ll find – and it’s got just as much to offer your ears while you consider the lyricism through a spectacular array of pulsing sweetness too.
I gotta say, I didn’t quite know what to expect in listening to this album, and I am more than pleasantly surprised with what we’ve found so far. Not only is each song loaded up with sentiment that you’ll find yourself more than willing to get behind, let’s be real here – ALNA & Phil sound great together, and they’ve really latched onto something special between them here in the vision for HEY YOU!. Songs like “Humen” continue to make the case on their behalf on lyrical level, in addition to Phil’s musicianship and ALNA’s ever-present beauty radiating soulfully from the microphone. They’ve found yet another wonderfully compelling hook to guide the melody along in the chorus – definitely another highly memorable moment here from this duo and a song with a fantastically easygoing vibe that’ll have ya singing along in no time. In fact, I’d put “Humen” right up there with the songs on this record that’ll have you convinced within a single spin that you’ll wanna hear a whole lot more from this duo – everything about this cut seems to fall right into the spot you wanna find it, creating an endlessly inviting experience that’s equally innovative as it plays on. ALNA deserves a ton of credit for discovering an absolutely stellar vocal rhythm & flow to grab your attention, and Phil has expertly designed the music to respond & react brilliantly around her as she does. I’ll mention the 90s singer Poe a couple times in comparison to ALNA’s voice throughout this review – rest assured, that’s always a great thing in my books. With the slightly jazzy nature you’ll find in this catchy & crafty tune, that comparison comes alive through both the music & vocals in this particular cut – so clearly, I’m a big fan of “Humen,” 100%.
Wow. Believe me folks…it’s very easy to get fully wrapped up in the warm glow of ALNA’s vocals when you listen to this record, and that streak will certainly continue with the way she sings “Falling” as well – but if you haven’t noticed just how effective the production has been and what a significant role Phil’s played there as well, it’ll become more than clear in listen to a tune like this one. From the moment this track begins you can really feel the texture of this track reach out to you – from the presence of the low bass-lines at the base, to the rhythm shining on the surface, to the lead guitar notes set stunningly far off in the distance, and the vocals bouncing around from the lefts to the rights – this is a perfect example of dimension & depth. They drive forward into the a deep ballad-style tune here; it’s got backbone and heart…it’s got vocals, lyrics, and sound that’ll move your mind, body, and soul sweetly – you know you’ve got time for that! “Falling” is one of those cuts that’ll definitely keep people coming back to this record…really, by all accounts & measures, this is a hit song too; I probably wouldn’t put it out there as the initial single perhaps, but definitely down the road as single two or three or four maybe.
You realize what that means though right folks? ALNA & Phil are truly spoiled for choice on HEY YOU! – how awesome is that? There really is a lineup of truly stellar tunes flowing through this whole album.
Don’t get me wrong…sometimes even when things don’t make complete sense to your ears when you listen to something, that’ll actually explain it – we all clear here? I ain’t gonna lie to you – it might take you a spin or two through “Freedom” to fully ‘get it’ when you hear it…there are moments that are made to be readily absorbed, and there are moments where ALNA will twist the design & flow of her words in remarkably insightful & unique ways you’d simply never see coming. Whenever I got to the chorus of “Freedom” and the way she sang it…all I could think to myself was that it’s moments just like that part that lead to successful collaborations like this one. You can’t help but hear the magic being made there and how different it is…you wouldn’t sing “Freedom” with the brilliant twists that ALNA makes along the way without the confidence you need as an entertainer & the ideas to go with the talent. She’s willing to take chances as a singer, be herself, and really let go of that paranoia that holds so many others back from getting to the heart of their best. ALNA delivers on something that you’ll find you just don’t get out of 99% of the artists out there on the microphone, and it’s that intangible X-factor she has that’s going to lead this collaboration into the future without question. At least I hope! I’ve heard every reason these two should continue on making music together from track one on-forward throughout HEY YOU!, and it’s the bold uniqueness & artistic integrity in tunes like “Freedom” that are a perfect example of why they resonate with us in a memorable way. Listen to ALNA’s stylistically sleek performance here…you’ll find you might not even catch all the words at first – but I can guarantee you’ll hear a melody through her vocals and the way she sings that’ll feel like it’s been a part of you all along. Didn’t always love the bass in the chorus…but absolutely loved it in every other spot without hesitation.
Again…I’m not gonna be the one to say I wasn’t already loving life in the verses of “I Believe Us” – I was already having myself a good time…but once more, that shift into the chorus of this song reveals a duo that is absolutely capable of going from good to great at any given moment. Like, around the 2:10 mark? C’mon folks – it’s moments like this that I get out of bed for, exist, live, and breathe to listen to & discover…the sheer specialness these two continually display between them is more than noteworthy, it’s exceptional – and moments like they create in the chorus here pump out an addictive vibe beyond words. There’s a truly authentic playfulness that comes along with the bounce you’ll find in the music & melody that instantly has us onboard & listening with our full attention – and the shift & transition into the chorus of “I Believe Us” could arguably be THE highlight moment of all the fantastic candidates you’ll find throughout this record…and trust me, that’s saying quite a bit. ALNA is outright incredible on this track and has found an unbelievably awesome energy & gear to sing this song with – and hearing Phil come to life with some of his own inspired best alongside her made for a seriously special moment on HEY YOU! that I swear I’ll remember five years down the road easily. “I Believe Us” is completely my jam – and even as many times as I spun this record and the stellar production it has, I could never get it quite loud enough to satisfy me without fear of having my neighbors calling the “Police” on me – and as we learned earlier on…well…let’s just say I’m trying to keep it down just enough to keep both me & them happy at the same time. You get the idea – I blast this song to its max potential; it’s awesome.
“Kids” is NOT a bad song either…and I’ll admit, it’s a pretty sweet tune written clearly in tribute to ALNA’s own children. Hard for a guy like me, or likely any of you out there, to hate on a concept like that, even if I’d be willing to concede this is that particular cut that stood out to me as not quite up to that same immaculate level of indescribable uniqueness they’ve displayed earlier on throughout this set. Music…it’s a very multi-faceted thing folks, and never forget it – songs are written for more reasons than I’d ever be able to list here – and a tune written for those we care about most quite often makes the list. Would I begrudge good ol’ ALNA here for wanting to write about her kids? Heck no! Clearly she loves them, and right on, and I’m happy for her in that regard, of course. That being said, I think all of you that are out there loving your kids are all superhuman…I never had’em personally, and the interest of doing do continually plummeted down throughout the years to the point where I hardly even understand the interest in these tiny clones myself – but I do understand why other people dig on their miniature versions for sure. And believe me when I say, at some point, those same “Kids” are gonna grow up, they’ll listen to this song, and they will genuinely love it…because they’ll know it was created with the purest intentions, a whole lotta love & a whole lotta heart. Certainly nothing wrong with that. It’s sweet, I’ll put it that way…I can only imagine they’ll grow up to truly appreciate what ALNA’s written.
“I Need You Real” is another solid example of how this duo does things differently, and successfully so. Another track that very well may take a few spins to fully figure it out…and I’m not even 100% convinced myself that there aren’t a few slight timing issues that they’ll run into along the way – but the heart in this song stands out for all the right reasons and more than makes up for any slight quirks you’ll notice. Love the piano/keys melody that guides this tune along, and at less than three-minutes in length it’s pretty tough to ultimately complain about a song that short that provides any uniqueness within such a small space, which this tune definitely does. It is a bit on the looser side of what they’ve created in terms of how this melody will be absorbed by the masses listening out there…and part of me does wonder a bit if “I Need You Real” and “Kids” might have made the record stronger overall if they weren’t part of the lineup, perhaps appearing as bonus tracks instead. Still good tunes by any stretch of the imagination…but, it’s also just as important & crucial to point out where things are going really right for this duo as opposed to just alright, you dig? But let’s also be real here – they’ve left us with precious little to really comment on as far as anything critical is concerned, and if this is truly all there is to be said, they’re in great shape. “I Need You Real” is a bit on the looser-side of the tunes they’ve got on this album, sure…but there are still plenty of quality ideas in the mix here from the music to the vocals, and still plenty on display that hints at even more potential in their tunes for the future, should they decide to keep this collaboration going. Which again, I’m absolutely in favor of – Phil & ALNA are excellent as a duo and have continuously given us a wide array of reasons to keep on listening, this song still included.
I think the world of what they’ve done on “Sunny” – this is a wonderful blend of sound & style, with a whole lot of that uniqueness we love in what ALNA brings to the microphone & her melodies. Combined with what you’d have to assume are intentionally warm & bright vibes glowing throughout the distance of “Sunny” – that compelling originality of this band is right there on the horizon & in clear view as they play this song, giving it a solid mix of atmospheric sound & grounded sentiment. This is where she resembles something of a supernatural cross between Sarah Bettens of K’s Choice and Poe from back in the 90s…and you can hear the potential ALNA could have in contributing to just about any kind of Trip-Hop based project like Massive Attack would create as well as a featured guest-star. Sometimes some of the most subtle moments can reveal the most organic sounds that seem to connect in the strongest ways…and I’d argue that’s the case with “Sunny” for sure; it’s built on inviting, soulful vibes that have you more than willing to listen. ALNA’s a genuine all-star in the making; don’t get me wrong…there is a couple spots here & there on “Sunny” that could perhaps use another coat of polish or perhaps even another take, but extremely minimal at best and never a factor that would turn you off – for the VAST majority, she’s got a wonderful tone & fearless approach that leads her in all the right directions. The more she pushes herself, like you’ll often hear her do in the final moments of several of these songs as ALNA raises the stakes for the finales before they’re over, you’ll hear she gets seriously awesome results to be proud of. As she continues on, I would be more than willing to bet she’s just gonna get better & better…considering she’s ALREADY amazing, that’s a sign of great things to come – having Phil there to back her up in collaboration as such a steady & reliable presence is a true gift too.
Could they brighten up even more than a song called “Sunny?” Sure! Why not throw “Sunshine” right afterwards! Definitely shifting even further towards the rhythmic vocal melodies of an artist like Poe once again here…you can hear ALNA’s got the spirit as she sings this song, and delivers on a wonderfully confident performance that shines as bright as the title would imply. Love the giant bass-lines this song has as well and the subtleness of the electro-infusion accompanying the piano melody as well…all-in-all, Phil’s added in quite a substantial amount of layers into the music to make this an all-encompassing experience. They’re working with vibes here…the distinction is important; that’s not to say it’s without hooks or devoid of that sweet catchiness you’d likely expect to keep you listening, it just plays a more secondary role here overall. “Sunshine” is one of those tracks that ends up being a lot more straightforward than you might assume it would be in knowing all that has gone into it from having a close listen…the end results become a really laidback tune that would be your perfect soundtrack while you’re lying around in the summer sun without a care in the world…that’s the vibe we’re working with. In terms of “Sunshine” being as memorable as what you’ll find in the first half of this record…that’s the harder part to judge without a fair amount of time in between the release of this album and spinning it now…we’ll know that in the future to follow. I suspect “Sunshine” is always going to be well received whenever it pops up onto any playlist out there, but I suppose what I’m getting at is that it wouldn’t be as likely to be considered the defining point of this particular record. Ultimately, I would certainly still say that it’s a good representation of the attitude & demeanor of this duo, which is also important too; they’ve got great positive energy between them on “Sunshine” & they’re clearly will to share it with us.
I really like that they’ve tried a lot of things in the lineup of songs on HEY YOU! – and they’ll continue to flex the diversity of this set-list right to the stretches of its finale, “Road To Hell.” You’ll find an extreme depth to this song from start to finish, and the weight of seriousness makes its presence felt immediately. I wasn’t 100% sure about the instrumental breakdown & whether or not that brighter moment around the 2:45-ish mark fully suited this particular track, but aside from that tiny spot in this tune, the rest was an unquestionable fit and really delivers a spectacular conclusion to this album through cleverly slow-burning sound. ALNA rocks this with professional subtlety and angelic grace, and all-around, you’ll find “Road To Hell” really creates a gripping listen through powerful dynamics that hit hard at their most intense, and dial right back into serenity when the moment calls for it. Overall, they definitely chose the right direction to take here at the end and delivered on a song that’s solidly designed to capture your interest through gritty themes and melodies that can’t be denied through both the music & vocals, putting that strength between them into perfect balance one last time before it’s all over. “Road To Hell” is genuinely gripping when it comes right down to it, and caps off the experience with HEY YOU! on a song that virtually guarantees you’ll keep coming back to this record time & again. Phil and ALNA prove to be a collaboration that really works wonders together – I’m not only stoked about what I hear so far this early on in their music, but I’m already looking forward to that next album.
Find out more about HEY YOU! and what’s happening over there at Caretaker Studios by clicking this handy link right here: https://www.caretakerstudios.com
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