ALBUM REVIEW: Alicia Walter – I Am Alicia

8/10

Alicia Walter

Art-rock/art-pop singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alicia Walter has released her debut solo album, I Am Alicia, via Sooper Records. Well-known for fronting Chicago’s math-rock outfit Oshwa, in 2016, Alicia relocated to NYC. The year 2016 also marked the release of Oshwa’s last album, I We You Me.

Speaking about I Am Alicia’s emergence, Alicia shares, “Have you ever wanted to meet yourself?  I mean, the real you — have you ever wondered if there’s more to you than meets the eye?  Do you really know yourself?  A few years ago, after making a big solo move from Chicago to New York City, I started asking myself questions like this.  I was trying new things, meeting new people, finding myself in all sorts of new places, and I was learning that there was a lot more to me than I’d realized.  It seemed like I was finding outlets for parts of myself I’d never plugged into before, and I loved who was being illuminated.  Meeting these new parts of myself was an all-encompassing experience: psychological, spiritual, emotional, and intrinsically defining what it means to be human.  I felt electric.

She goes on, adding, “I decided to write an album taking what I’d already learned and hoping to find out a lot more — an adventure, a hero’s journey. I started writing ‘I Am Alicia’ based on that one question: ‘Have you ever wanted to meet yourself,’ which I quickly followed with, ‘What would you look like?  What would you talk like?  Where would we find you?’”

Comprising 10-tracks, highlights on the album include “Prelude,” a glitch-flavoured art-pop song recalling Lady Gaga but more avant-garde and intense. Edgy, potent, and oh so gorgeous, Alicia’s voice is a dazzling instrument, imbuing the lyric with vibrant timbres.

“Who Am I” blends big-band jazz savours with creamy art-pop textures, forming a fabulously supple tune, ranging from fusion jazz to resonant classical jazz. While “Suit Yourself” conjures up hints of Prince, with its tight ‘80s pop-funk energy and lustrous falsetto vocals.

“I Feel You” rolls out on oscillating synths riding a thumping house rhythm as Alicia’s glossy tones infuse the lyrics with tantalizing, magnetic tangs. Intertwining layers of harmonies give the song plush, radiant surfaces akin to an operatic wall of voices.

The final track, “I Am”, features jazz and baroque pop tints, assembled into a graceful melody rippling with bright colouration as Alicia’s soaring voice gives the lyrics existential consequence.

“I always wanted to be somebody / Didn’t know it was me / I’ve been runnin’ for such a long time / Now I see I’m right in front of me.”

Alicia explains the song’s inspiration, “I first got the idea for this song walking down the street on the Upper West Side, between teaching piano lessons.  The idea of ‘I am everything, I am God’ just hit me, and I remember starting to cry, not even knowing what the song would be, just having that seed of an idea.  The process of writing this song proved to be an absolute tear fest, and this song still makes me cry all the time.”

Simultaneously retro, avant-garde, and wide-ranging, I Am Alicia is captivating, not only for its exhilarating harmonics but because of Alicia Walter’s bravura voice.

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