Before The Walkmen announced an “extreme hiatus” late in 2013, frontman Hamilton Leithauser had begun work on a solo album featuring members of revered indie-rock groups like Vampire Weekend, The Shins, and Fleet Foxes. As the release of his solo debut, Black Hours, approaches in May, Leithauser’s first single is “Alexandra,” one of two songs co-written and produced by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij. “Alexandra” is an energetic number in which Leithauser loudly and proudly proclaims his love for the titular subject while seemingly questioning others’ tendencies to move on from relationships so quickly. Though relatively short, clocking in at a mere two minutes and 46 seconds, the song packs in fuzzy production, hand-claps, and drum beats at the beginning. Throughout the later verses, it becomes increasingly more layered with harmonica, guitar, cymbals, and a jolly, fast-paced piano, resulting in a complex sound that makes more sense considering The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend have shared the stage with the experimentative Dirty Projectors in the past. Despite the loud, lo-fi wall of sound that accompanies its melody, “Alexandra” manages to be upbeat and catchy from the first listen, with the instrumentation adding unique appeal and charm.
Atlanta artist Sye Elaine Spence’s latest solo release is a warm, folk-inflected EP entitled Bloom, following previous releases under the names We Are The Arrow, Sye Spence, and Elaine. The four-track set begins with its title track, featuring a softly-plucked banjo as the sole accompaniment to Spence’s sweet vocal. This instrumental arrangement is constant throughout the EP, continuing into Spence’s cover of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love,” which recalls the similar GRAMMY-winning 2011 version released on Corinne Bailey Rae’s The Love EP. With a delivery that regularly hangs behind the beat, Spence’s take on the classic comes across as relaxed and romantic. In contrast, third track “You” feels more urgent, with the repeated line “I just wanna love you” growing in volume along with the eighth-note banjo countermelody as the song climaxes.
In addition to the lovestruck feel that the EP embodies, Bloom evokes the sound of summertime, with light instrumentation and twee arrangements. While earlier tracks include references to fireflies and shorelines, closing track “Long Live The Summertime” is the most obvious contributor to the idea. Its lyrics are full to the brim with summery references, including barbecue, sweet tea, and ice cream; as the song closes, a flock of birds tweet as they fly into the distance. In the midst of an endlessly cold and snowy winter, Spence’s Bloom EP is a warm ray of sunshine that makes the wind chill just a little more bearable.