I hope some of you will recall a posting from earlier this year when I got all excited by the impending release of Mox Nox, the debut album by Alison Eales, best known for multi-instrumental work, but mainly keyboards, with Butcher Boy.
It’s coming up for four weeks since the record, on Fika Recordings, was made available, during which time Alison has played a handful of gigs as part of the promotional efforts.
I’ve held back from offering my thoughts on the album until now. I’ve done so for the simple reason that having been ridiculously impressed with its contents on the first few listens, I thought it would be best to shy away from a review on the basis that some of the more cynical out there might have been thinking, ‘well, he would say that, wouldn’t he, given he’s good friends with the musician’.
But my repeated listens to Vox Nox have been without prejudice. I think a lot of my delight comes from the fact that, despite the fact she has roped in a few of her bandmates to help out on some of its 12 songs – Basil Pieroni plays guitar on four of them, while Maya Burman-Roy and Cat Robertson add cello and violin to a number of other tracks – the album very much stands on its own as a vehicle for Alison’s previously (seemingly) hidden talents in the singing and songwriting departments, given she hasn’t had too much obvious input into those particular activities in her years with Butcher Boy.
I mentioned back in January, at the time when lead-off single Fifty-Five North was given a digital and promo video release, that Alison had spent many years working away quietly and below-the-radar on her solo material. Part of this involved her going along to open-mic evenings across various Glasgow venues and locations, gauging the reaction of audiences to her performances. It’s as tough an environment as you could possibly imagine, but it has all proven to be very worthwhile as it enabled her to enter a recording studio from where she would emerge with a set of songs that have an incredible degree of maturity and confidence, perfectly polished up by the talents of Paul Savage behind the desk.
Mox Nox is a superb album that I know will be among my favourite releases in 2023. The publicists at Fika, in the material they sent out along with review copies, said it was an album that was likely to appeal to fans of Saint Etienne, The Magnetic Fields, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stereolab, Jake Thackray and Kirsty MacColl, which gives an indication of the depth of influences that have impacted on the songs and the ways they have been recorded and arranged. It’s an indie-pop album laced liberally with chamber-pop; a string quartet is utilised on one song, while others make use of flute, glockenspiel, autoharp, dulcimer and kalimba.
Incidentally, I’m not alone in falling for the charms of Mox Nox.
Ed Jupp, in a terrific review over at God Is In The Zine, calls it ‘brilliantly accomplished’ and states that listeners are ‘probably unlikely to hear many records as individual as this album this year’.
The unnamed reviewer at BluesBunny opens with ‘There are things that make life worthwhile. Things like beer, curry and 4.2 litre V8 petrol engines. Things like Alison Eales and her album “Mox Nox”’, before commending Alison for ‘doing what many would consider unfashionable and that is making an album for grownups.’
Jason Anderson, in giving the album 7/10 in Uncut magazine, calls it a ‘charming debut album’ in which Alison’s ‘affecting vocals and atypical instrument choices help steer these songs away from the tried and twee’.
Here’s an opportunity to listen to the lead single. An ode to Glasgow from someone who is not a native but now calls it home after many years of studying, performing and working.
mp3: Alison Eales – Fifty-Five North
The album might well be available in an independent store close to where you live, but your best bet might well be bandcamp, where it is retailing for £20 while the digital copy is £7. Click here.