Review by Natalie Salvo
It has been five years since Alex Lloyd released a solo album but in that time he had a break like John Lennon. He was busy caring for his brood of children (he now has four) and was busy writing music for other acts (like Passenger) plus producing and working on soundtracks (including collaborating with the Pigram Brothers for the Mad Bastards OST). This period – like much of his career – has been a rich and varied one and this is also the most striking element on his sixth studio record.
Urban Wilderness was written in a piecemeal fashion with one of the tracks dating back as far as 2008. It covers his time spent living abroad in Queens Park in the UK and his return home to the Central Coast in 2012. The title hints at being lost in a sea of uncertainty and this is reflective of Lloyd’s initial mindset with regards to returning to solo music. This changed though, when he shared his demos with artist and producer, Shane Nicholson (who is famous for his collaborations with his then-wife, Kasey Chambers). Nicholson pushed Lloyd and insisted that he had an album and the rest is all history.
Lloyd would also enlist the help of some other famous friends including Declan Kelly for the groovy, “Good Thing” (a song about a man who takes leave but doesn’t realise his sweetheart still cares for him). Drummer, Josh Schubert (Josh Pyke) also contributes here along with Jim Moginie on the guitars. Kasey Chambers also appears on the duet, “Honestly”, a melancholy and lovelorn song where Lloyd apparently paid her in butter.
When Alex Lloyd first won over critics and fans with his stellar debut, Black The Sun, he looked at embracing new technologies and pairing this with traditional instruments. This is hinted at on some of the 12 songs here, but there is also an expansion of his core sound. It makes for rather varied output, meaning Lloyd can flirt with a country twang on one song; then do a loud and proud soul number in between moments of pure pop, blues and contemplative folk tunes.
Alex Lloyd knows a thing or two about experimenting with sounds and the best example of this is in “Black Cat”. It uses the Black The Sun approach by coupling some polished rock swagger with fuzz and an alien-like voice. This means there are punchy moments that could make it pass for a Regurgitator song and other times where it’s more like José González’s band, Junip. “Waterfall” is some groovy pop mixed with soul and soaring vocals, which makes it resemble Dan Sultan’s work, before there’s a return to form with some Crowded House-inspired pop on “Bring It On”.
There’s the gentle piano ballad, “Wait Too Long Song” before Lloyd sings a hooky refrain to a reggae melody on a crystalline island in “One Trick Pony”. On “Anie” Lloyd decides to take a different approach yet again, this time writing from a woman’s perspective, just as Alexander Gow from Oh Mercy did in what is ultimately a chiming pop track. There are also moments where Lloyd plays it safe and doesn’t divert too far from the well-trodden singer-songwriter route like in “Turn the Light On”.
Urban Wilderness is a varied affair which means there are moments where it feels more like a compilation or soundtrack than a solo artist’s album. It’s obvious that Alex Lloyd has matured and been affected by a change of scenery and perspective and this has coloured his work, even if the main aim was to continue writing heartfelt songs about his family and love in general. Lloyd crowd-funded this album because he wanted to have complete creative control and this has seen him open his wings and flourish because at it’s best Urban Wilderness is like the greatest elements of human nature, it’s confident, unpredictable and full of purpose and emotion.
Click here for Alex Lloyd – “Urban Wilderness” November/December 2013 tour dates and information!