Alex Calder

Strange Dreams

Captured Tracks

Jan 21, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


In press notes, Alex Calder is often described as a "Mac DeMarco collaborator." It's a dubious way to introduce the singer/songwriter, who did time with DeMarco in the formative band Makeout Videotape, because it immediately and unjustly places him in DeMarco's shadow. True, both artists share a penchant for Tim and Eric-like music videos and unfussy melodicism, but relative to DeMarco's more extroverted persona, Calder possesses a subdued, intentionally vague presence. Throughout his full-length debut, Strange Dreams, his nearly subliminal vocals melt inside the sonic landscape, allowing his personality to dissipate into the album's overall climate. It's convenient (if not entirely fair) to think of him as the Lockett Pundt to Mac DeMarco's Bradford Cox, because Calder is something of a post-Deerhunter songwriter; in a manner reminiscent of Cryptograms and Microcastle, Strange Dreams blurs eras, genres, and moods into an indistinct haze that sounds simultaneously boyish and ghostly.

Elements of warped synth-pop and ambient drift burble up, but Strange Dreams' key inspiration seems to come from that precise moment in the mid-'60s when acid tablets first hit tongues and the childlike innocence of pop music began developing an eerie undercurrent. Calder isn't unconvincing when he strays from this kind of circular psych, but he's at his best with a guitar in his hands, delivering a slow-swirl chorus that coils like molasses down a drain ("Lola," "No Device," and the title track exemplify the form).

Strange Dreams is a deeply narcotic album, but not a decadent one, its druggy feeling being of the naïve, somebody-put-something-in-my-drink variety. With its rewound guitars and random samples of TV dialogue, the record evokes a lo-fi sanctuary of drawn blinds, dank rooms, and stacks upon stacks of thrift store-procured VHS. That Strange Dreams conjures so much with such uncomplicated song structures says plenty about Calder's command of heavy-headed, 4AD-influenced atmosphere and gluey tempos. He's able to tap into the dark side of slackerdom without losing sight of what makes a permanent-daydream lifestyle so seductive, allowing Strange Dreams to work as both a subversive take on millennial indie's chilled-out obsessions and an album of simple pop pleasures. (www.facebook.com/AlexCaldermusic)

Author rating: 7/10

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