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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Alexx Calise

In Avanti

Review by Rick Damigella

There is something I am a huge fan of hearing, of which there is just not enough of in rock music. That is a female rock performer who rocks because of their own talent, not because of a showy gimmick or being a packaged product based on sex appeal. Alexx Calise is exactly that; talent for talent’s sake and not a product.

This Southern California-via-Florida rocker blends elements of hard rock with electronica (another thing, of which when done right, I am also an absolute fan) with a dash of 21st century urban pop sensibility. The resulting sound of her second album, In Avanti, is a tightly polished combination of rocktronica, heartfelt heavy pop balladry and full-tilt rockers which should appeal to multiple levels of music fandom. The translation from Italian of “In Avanti” is “forward;” and forward is exactly where Alexx Calise takes her music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Anything Goes

Electronic colors wash across the sound spectrum, quickly joined by drums and guitars with appropriate levels of crunch. But then it gets more interesting. A heavy electronica line couples the intro to the opening vocal line in killer style. One of the fastest ways to get this reviewer’s attention is a proper blend of rock and electronic elements and this song (the whole album, actually) has them. Alexx Calise’s voice is strong, but gets even better with less production around it in the chorus. And behold! We get a guitar solo! That’s another thing there just isn’t enough of in this world. Its short, but well played.

Break Me

Thick, electronic bass hits punctuate the opening as Calise declares “You’re not gonna break me!” in the intro. The song takes a sharp turn into a gentler vocal tone before taking another into an urban-infused vocal delivery. Perhaps it is something about the production of the deft blending of styles, but this song feels as if it were written for a movie soundtrack. In other words, it ought to be in one where a female character finds a moment of renewed strength. Are they rebooting The Legend of Billie Jean yet? If so, here’s the theme song.

Saying Goodbye

Cyberpunk-inspired rhythms, a synth string section and a hammering guitar tone propel the song, but it’s Calise’s vocals that make it complete. The effected vocal sections are completely appropriate for the song’s style, and it would be interesting to hear how this would translate in a live setting.

Out of Sight

Electronic rhythms blend with a piano line hovering an octave north of gothic starts the next song. Calise’s voice is presented pure and easy, with a gentler, softer tonality to it. At this point in the listen we know she’s capable of belting hard, which she does as the chorus kicks in, with her guitar and voice working in tandem to excellent effect. Whatever electronic effect the producers put on the short guitar solo is utterly unique.

Release Me

An acoustic guitar starts things off this time. While still maintaining the album’s overall rocktronica sound and feeling, the production on this track is much more subtle, allowing the performer to shine through even more.

Cry

The gentler nature of the mid-section of the album continues with this piece. Alexx Calise is featured solo, just voice and guitar until a very appropriate synth colors the background and it joined by piano. The well-placed electronic elements return as the song progresses, accenting the song beautifully, giving it a fuller sound with each subsequent section.

See You Again

Drifting into a pop vein, once again we get Alexx Calise and acoustic guitar, with things getting crunchier as we arrive at the chorus. In a perfect world, this would be a song that enjoyed regular rotation on the radio. More on that thought later in the review.

Good Enough (The Dirty South Mix)

We now arrive at one of my favorite tracks on the album. And yes, it’s Dirty South as in the Serbian-born Australian DJ who has remixed everyone from Tiësto to Snoop Dogg to U2. The guitars are heavier, as are some of the synths. Production fans throw on your headphones and relish in the loose instrument cable buzz placed subtly in the right channel at the 20 second mark. Calise’s voice, especially in the chorus, is among the strongest performances on the album. Calise lets go with a guitar and vocal wail at the 2:25 mark that ties the whole thing together perfectly. This is rocktronica defined and there needs to be more of it when it’s put together this well.

My Song (Version 2.0)

This is also among my favorite tracks on the album. Calise asks, “is this thing on?” from the vocal booth to start the track off. Crisp guitar riffing and a pulsating bass propel the song. This is much more of a pure rocker, with much less in the way of electronics. They are there, just considerably more discreet in the mix. There is something about this song that just screams, “show stopper” in a live setting.

Get Used To It

The electronic elements are brought forward much more this time. The song closes the album on a very strong note, with Alexx Calise delivering one of her most hook-laden choruses yet. While I’ve not seen Alexx Calise play live, something about her performing style, especially with songs as strong as this one, tells me that while this album is a great listen, there’s bound to be even more to her when she takes a stage. This cut in particular has “hit” written all over it. In the era where artists such as this have less and less a chance to become a radio hit, it is up to you, the listener, the fan, to spread the word about what an utterly enjoyable listen In Avanti is.

 
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