“Versatile, eclectic, and polished.”
-Matthew Keever, Houston Press
“It’s music that, like, leaves you satisfied… but also, like, wanting more…”
Alex Riddle returns for the first time since his 2016 release Happy Daggers with a pair of literate and emotionally direct tracks, “Snow White,” an uptempo rocker a la The National, and “Hosting Ghosts,” a contemplative and slow-burning ballad, set for release to digital and 7” vinyl. “The new singles continue what I started to explore on Happy Daggers—the nature of love and why and how it goes awry.” That album’s title refers to the words spoken by Juliet just before her suicide in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This time around, Riddle appropriates material from Disney movies and fairy tales to explore the pitfalls of love. “Realism, in so far as it mandates depiction of actual possible events, is too constraining for me. I’m more concerned with what’s going on in people’s heads than things or events in themselves. This gives my lyrics an imaginative and dreamlike quality. Characters may levitate or resurrect or time-travel.” His unique approach to songwriting and composition as well as his prodigious talent as a vocalist and guitarist have Riddle poised to carve out a spot in the ever-changing indie rock pantheon.
Vocally, Riddle gives us flashes of the immortal Jeff Buckley, showcasing an elegiac yet commanding falsetto on a track like “Hosting Ghosts,” a song that according to Riddle is about “one of the fundamental realities of being alive—the tragedy of loneliness.” Sincere and direct in its address, the song contextualizes a relationship’s failure to launch against an eternal backdrop, via references to the supernatural as well as to the Buddhist concept of Nirvana. Riddle showcases his versatility by again employing the falsetto at the climax of “Snow White,” a tune which trafficks more in irony, flipping the script of the classic fairy tale. “It’s something like a modern twist on the fairy tale—and it’s twisted in the strongest sense,” says Riddle. “The perspective is convoluted, and there’s a real lack of resolve on all sides. They definitely don’t live happily ever after in this one.”
Sonically, “Hosting Ghosts” and “Snow White” couldn’t be further apart, but Riddle maintains that they spring from a common source: “I began writing ‘Snow White’ and ‘Hosting Ghosts’ at literally the same time, on the same page in my notebook—they even share an opening line.” Despite their wide divergence in tone and style, both tracks build slowly to epic climaxes and are suffused with a strong sense of melody and confidence of instrumentation. The interplay of multiple guitars and piano gives the tunes a sumptuous texture, underscored by a dynamic rhythm section, which drives forward on “Snow White” while, after holding back the better part of the song, plunges into a heady groove on “Hosting Ghosts.” “It still surprises me that a single phrase could have generated two such different songs.” Ultimately, the universal struggle of humans to connect with one another forms the core of his work, and it’s the exploration of that deep gulf between humans and the desperate need to bridge that divide that these works share.
While his affinity for exploration and experimentation leads often to stranger territories, Riddle takes great care to make sure that his work maintains directness and emotional immediacy, which in turn keeps it accessible. Still, his fundamental musical goal is cathartic in nature. “I want the listener to feel that something dramatic is happening, that something is at stake,” said Riddle in an early interview with Houston Press. “I’m not interested in easy listening.”
In the coming months, Riddle will also be hitting the road in support of his new 7” and subsequent digital EP. To stay current on all things Alex Riddle be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and his Official Site.