Alexander and the Grapes - Hemispheres
Record Label: New Granada Records
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Who would've thought the sunny climes of St. Petersburg, FL would a produce an Americana record this bruised, battered and unshakably brilliant? But sure enough, the quartet known as Alexander and the Grapes have indeed crafted an absolutely spellbinding and deeply potent disc of 12 aural nuggets.
Hemispheres opens with the crackling "Another Year," a rustling sendup about the one that got away. It crackles and snaps with a conviction and clairvoyance that is inviting and urges the listener to keep wanting more. On the heels of "Another Year," is the crisp, brisk and buoyant "Conscience," But those first two tracks are nothing compared to the near-flawless "Conversations," a weary and haggard tale that is a quintessential slice of heartland brilliance. Equally as strong, if not more so, is the panged "East Coast," an ode to the rigors of touring that is as honest and stark as anything since Pedro the Lion's "Bands With Managers." And Pedro the Lion is a terrific reference point for Hemispheres as many of the songs have echoes and strains of Bazan. The disc's first half closes out with the rustic and autumnal "Where I Go," and the spine-tingling "Chuck Stewart Has a Dream," in which vocalist Alex Charos sings "My love is like a glass, a glass that never fills, it just keeps flowing through."
The second half of Hemispheres opens with "Ocean," a rattling five minute clanger about the end of a relationship that points towards the same heights as "Another Year," but goes a bit deeper. Not only is the pedal steel more pronounced, but the song mines a deeper and denser sonic terrain. And it is also here that the band once again channels its inner Pedro the Lion. Its successor "Salesman," is the album's most guitar-driven and kinetic and allows the band a chance to flex their proverbial music muscles. That they pull it off so well is only a further credit to their innate talents.
The second half's first real head-turner is "Jordan," a dry, barren and evocative cut in which Charos unravels a Biblical yarn that is arguably Hemisphere's strongest song. But more so than just that, "Jordan," is the kind of song many dreams wish they could write and never do. It is in a word: spellbinding. Though it is not nearly as transcendent as "Jordan," "Can't Waste Too Much Time," draws its strength from a languorous piano and a pacing that is measured, careful and drawn out. Hemispheres' penultimate offering is "Swan Song," a fractious paean to the end of a relationship. While it is arguably the disc's weakest song it is still an asset, but not nearly as stirring as the album's previous efforts. Hemispheres closes with "Seeds," a vernal affair that shimmers and shakes with the hesitance of someone who's still trying to figure out how to navigate life's quandaries.
And that very point is what makes the LP so worth the listen. As a a whole Hemispheres is ruminative and intimate with a dusty and airy grace that is so deeply felt, so deeply profound and so undeniably important. In a city ripe with summer dresses and sun tan lotion, Alexander and the Grapes have crafted a disc so richly constructed and impacting it needs far more than just one cursory listen. That in and of itself is why Hemispheres should plant itself in your speakers before day's end. This is the sound of a band tapping into something truly extraordinary. That they pull it of as well as they do is only the more reason to lure the band to your hometown. Chances are, you won't be disappointed.