The biography for Alex Izenberg on his record label’s website features a GIF, taken from his video for ‘To Move On’, of the man himself banging on the bottom of a glass bottle of ketchup in a frustrated attempt to eke some of the sauce out.
We all know how that story ends – with a gush of far more than you actually needed – and presumably that’s where the metaphor comes into play as far as ‘Harlequin’, the Los Angeles native’s debut full-length, is concerned. It’s been five years in the making, with tons of ideas for songs written and discarded in that time, and the excess slowly cut away.
What’s left over ends up feeling like a surprisingly sparse affair given that Izenberg is evidently not a man of narrow musical tastes. There’s stylistic variation, from the groove-driven strut of ‘Hot Is the Fire’ through to the ambient swell of ‘A Bird Came Down’, but the compositions are united by their bare-bones nature, with subtle nods to grandiosity often helping to fill the sonic space – ominous drum rolls, or mournful strings.
Any album that flits between genre cues as much as this does – baroque pop one minute, offbeat piano balladry the next – is always going to tempt you to cast Izenberg as a bit of a dilettante, but he carries it all off with the necessary conviction. A protracted gestation, then, but one that’s paid off.