Alex Blum And The Roadside Quartet: If You’re Even Listening – Album Review
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Alex Blum And The Roadside Quartet have challenged us to see “If You’re Even Listening” to their newest full length album. In the last three years, Alex Blum and company have been busy. This outfit from southwest Washington has put out some great music. Yes, it was COVID time and there wasn’t anything else happening but the band was hard at work releasing singles, EPs, and full length albums. This is their follow up to the February, 2021 EP, “Talk Amongst Yourselves”. The band’s primary songwriter, Patrick Storedahl, has written 13 great songs on “If You’re Even Listening” that I would categorize as a cross between 70s rock and roll and 80s and 90s style jangle/dream pop. The bands that come to mind when listening, as a benchmark, are Fleetwood Mac, Mazzy Star, and Aimee Mann. Very solid songs that are pure ear candy.
Here is the full band lineup: Alex Blum – vocals; Ted Clark – drums, percussion; Patrick Storedahl – guitars, keys, percussion, backing vocals; Douglas Blum – bass, percussion, backing vocals; Peter Jansen – electric guitars, recording, mixing, producing.
I first became aware of Patrick about five years ago because I have had the pleasure of reviewing a fair amount of his solo material. It’s all fabulous. He is one of those rare individuals that can write, sing, and record. I know that anything Patrick is involved with is going to be good. And this is no exception. As I listen, I am astounded by the quality of the songs, the lead and backup vocals, the instrumentation, and the production value of the release. These guys and girl get it. Their sound is as professional as it gets. But it isn’t over done. They also understand that discipline is key and adhere to the adage “less is more”.
If you want a song right out of the box that has an absolutely infectious groove that is highly contagious, looks no further than Devil’s Playground. From top to bottom, this song is pure rock/pop joy. Alex’s vocals are delivered flawlessly and there is such a gorgeous quality to her voice that you just cannot get enough. It’s like the best Vegas buffet, you know you shouldn’t go back for thirds, but you just can’t help yourself. At least with Devil’s Playground, there is no downside and no regrets. The backing vocals and instrumentation round out this track beautifully. Patrick’s writing again delivers. If this were a baseball game, it would equate to a home run. This is a song about sometimes doing the wrong thing. Nothing too drastic, just not always following the angel on your shoulder and sometimes succumbing to the little devil:
Yeah Oh, yeah Yeah Oh, yeah
I’ve been good and I’ve been sweet
Living on the right side of the street
Let’s go out past where we should
Cross that line from being good
Let’s pack our bags…get out of town
Shake our asses…let’s get down
We’ll have a good time now
There isn’t any doubt
We’re gonna ride that merry-go-round
In the Devil’s Playground
There seems to be a bit of a recurring theme with the devil and heaven and hell. The final track entitled Hell Or Heaven tackles that recurring conflict of good vs. evil. Actually, this song is about loyalty and unwavering friendship but still manages to expertly weave in the concept of the dark side versus the light. This song takes a twist and proclaims through Alex’s strong yet sensitive vocals that regardless of fate, friendship will always be part of the equation.
The third leg of this trifecta of devil songs is Devil Of The Tangled Blue Branches. It’s more of a spiritual hymn about something lurking in the forest. It could be literal or an exploration of inner demons. I guess that’s up to the listener to decide what it means. The words remind me a little bit of Where Did You Sleep Last Night (In The Pines) made famous by Leadbelly and Kurt Cobain. Patrick’s lyrics are written in a way that leaves a lot open to interpretation. Everyone can have a personalized view of what the song means to them. A very difficult task but it is pulled off beautifully.
This is definitely a band that is on the uptick. They’re carrying the torch or the relay baton in the long storied tradition of rock and roll music from the Pacific Northwest. Wipe the dust off that flannel shirt and give “If You’re Even Listening” a spin. And then you can say, “Yes, yes I am listening”!You can find “If You’re Even Listening” here