An artistic ethos underpinned by melody and universality fuels Rob Alexander’s Dream Out Loud. Its impressive thirteen tracks are distinguished by several strengths. The album’s superior musicianship, vocal excellence, and command of songwriting fundamentals, however, sets him far apart from many contemporaries and peers. His gift for incorporating influences into his own art without sacrificing his identity is another unique attribute. Dream Out Loud has a distinct commercial slant but Alexander produces pop-minded material for adults and it has lasting value. There’s not a single disposable cut included on this release.

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“Yesterday’s News”, on reflection, is the clear opener. Alexander, musically and thematically, makes a definitive statement of purpose beginning the collection with this song. Some listeners may hear it as a bit of a squandered opportunity subbing traditional instruments with largely pre-programmed backing. Alexander’s inspired vocal makes the most of the moment. The title song kicks off with a brief guitar fanfare of sorts before settling into a mid-tempo pop jaunt. Alexander’s recordings benefit from a lot of stylization, but those moments never strike a false note; his vocal phrasing is comfortable here and he captures the song’s spirit with skillful ease.

“A Song to Get Us Through” will prove one of Dream Out Loud’s enduring numbers. Tracks such as this are ideally suited for this strange period in human history as the world tentatively emerges from a global pandemic to an uncertain future. He underlines our solidarity with beautiful simplicity certain to affect all but the most cynical of listeners. “Nothing to Be Afraid of Now” is another intensely human song, bursting with credible human emotions, and a big-tent pop gem that will rate among the album’s most dramatic tracks. Alexander’s understanding of how dynamics can shape a track is unquestionable.

The outstanding opening lines of “Angel and Johnny” set a captivating stage for everything that follows. It will be the favorite lyric for many. Alexander’s singing invokes every ounce of drama from the song’s situation and the intense theatricality of his interpretive powers is moving rather than pretentious. “La Flambeau” expands Alexander’s musical range but it does break in a sharp way with the preceding tracks. This break is so complete that it may be a jarring listening experience for some, but others will relish this inventive musical turn.

He takes something close to an everything and the kitchen sink attitude towards the album closer “Game Over”. Any inclination for theatricality redlines in this song without ever plunging over the brink into outright chaos and he mixes aggressive electric guitar, thunderous drums, light synthesizer lines, and other musical touches into this combustible stew. It may leave him vulnerable, once again, to criticism that he veers too far from his core strengths with tracks such this, but others will argue that “Game Over” illustrates his versatility. Rob Alexander’s Dream Out Loud shows this talented singer continuing to consolidate his already fine standing with work that shows engagement and ongoing growth. He is unafraid to try new things and explore unexpected directions.

Sebastian Cole