We need to talk about Rick Alvin.
And by talk, I mean dive into the inner workings of his mind—because his latest album, Doing Melting, is essentially a carnival ride through his cerebrum. Like most people nowadays, Alvin has a touch of ADD. His music plays like a pinball machine, zigzagging between musical styles so quickly that they often overlap and flow together into the next beat. He’s got a neon-bright kind of intensity, and writes lyrics that are refreshingly frank. Because (I have a feeling) they’re the unfiltered thoughts that pass through his head, delivered to us with a far off, rock-'n’-roller-mellowed-out-by-acid sort of cheekiness. So let’s talk about sex, birthdays, and being burned by an ex—emotions playing out across all the highs, lows, and bait-switches of his underlying melodies.
For us to really dissect Alvin’s style, we’ll have to work on a track-by-track basis, because each song is the metaphorical equivalent of a Russian nesting doll. You think it’s just one figurine in a babushka until you scratch the surface. Then there’s eight different styles lined in a row on the table, each an extension of the other. So let’s get to it.
"Otis Knows" hooked me with its soulful, Motown-inspired sound. There’s coursing percussion which paints definite shades of funk, and electronica acts as the fine-lined detailing. “How about that girl / She’s so fine / I want to make her mine / Far out, yeeaah” Alvin sings in a soft, raspy whisper. It’s a setup for what you think will be a seductive prelude—but, as is Alvin’s way, disparate elements emerge. As trip-hop starts to bubble to the surface, the theme of "Otis Knows" shifts, with Alvin crooning, “But girl I got to know you / And I realized you weren’t for me.” It then fades into an (ironically) sweet, hushed choral delivery of, “Oh, don’t fuck with my heart.”
It’s a song that acts as the first in a one-two punch with "Fake Fruit," its follow-up. Again, for the (quite literal) “don’t fuck with me” message being relayed, the song bounces along breezily. Alvin traipses between chipper tones, calm reposes, satellite-esque interference, and organ-meets-hi-hat interludes. It’s a musical mosaic in its most concentrated form. Because, let me remind you, this album never veers over the six-minute mark—and for all the songs within songs that it boasts, this is impressive.
Other elements in Alvin’s bag of tricks include sampling from The Sound of Music, classical composition, trance-inducing Latin American percussion, and even beachy, island strumming. The myriad directions he takes are almost dizzying, but in a way that's more intriguing than overwhelming.
Formerly known as Alvin Band, Rick ditched the imaginary background to keep tabs on his birthright, which in my humble opinion was the right move. Rick Alvin’s got too wide a vision to compromise.