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Review: Alien Country “Like My Life Depends On It” by Edmund Barker

 

The cover art for “Like My Life Depends On It,” the new album by Alien Country, put a smile on my face before I had even listened to any of the tracks. In keeping with the name of the band (well, okay, more accurately a solo project by singer Liam Marcus Torres), the cover goes all out with a country-fied vision of an alien world—complete with cacti, a futuristic city, and an old jalopy driving beneath an enormous moon, like Roger Dean art mixed with Route 66. While the songs on the record don’t exactly hit the level of bizarreness hinted at by that Americana-meets-Star Trek image, they make up for it with a sense of humor and bitter sweetness that’s pure old-timey country.

With songs such as the opener “So-Called Friends,” one might not immediately guess that they’re part of a sci-fi-themed record—which will either be a good or bad thing depending on your personal opinions on prog-rock-ish concept albums. That’s not me knocking the song at all, as it’s a sweet little country love tune with evocative fiddles and blues guitar. I was immediately struck by Torres’ voice, which has a soft, warbly quality that reminds me of alternative rock and indie folk vocalists. It might not be what everyone expects from a country record with retro ambitions, but I find the vocals charmingly authentic. The accompaniments on the album are varied and enjoyable, going from a soothing string instrumental on the interlude “Mommy Dearest” to bouncy electric guitars on “Remedy,” the following track. “Remedy” marks something of a slight tone shift on the album, as it shows Torres taking influence from alternative rock just as much as country. With its sunny chords and lyrics about total frustration with life, the song could almost be mistaken for pop-punk, until those recognizable fiddles from earlier in the album pop up again. It’s a fun hybrid of genres—a spirit which continues in the next tune “Going To Enjoy This,” thanks to its almost jangle pop-like chords and beat.  The following number “Hold Me” is not the strongest part of the album, as Torres’ voice doesn’t always mesh well with the oddly glam rock-esque lyrics. But the tunes that close out the album, especially “How It Could Have Been,” are wonderful pieces of energetic, slightly moody country rock.

I was expecting Buck Rogers set to bluegrass based on the album art, and got something slightly different, but wasn’t disappointed. Especially on the disc’s second half, Torres’ songs combine light melancholy and danceability in a way that I think can appeal to alt rock fans as well as country listeners (one of the album’s best bops is called “No One Is Coming For You Tonight,” for instance.). It’s a record that can stand on its own merits, even if it didn’t have the wonderfully weird cover.

4/5 Stars

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