88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/16
By Alexandra Adams, WKNC DJ Alex
Alex Winston’s new album, Sister Wife, is characterized by Winston’s fresh pop sound, clever lyrics and unbeatable hooks that you’ll be humming after the first listen.
In 2009, she released Basement Covers, an album featuring covers of Mumford & Sons, The Rolling Stones and three others. It was literally recorded in her basement with Winston playing every instrument, and caused record labels to start paying attention. Her latest, Sister Wife, at just over 21 minutes long, is a perfect primer in Winston’s unique style that has her poised to become an indie darling.
The 23-year-old Detroit native and classically trained opera singer wrote all of the album’s songs, in addition to playing all of the instruments on the recordings.
Most of Winston’s songs stay in her signature high-pitched, almost girlish tone. Her Joanna Newsome-esque sound may seem like it could be unappealing to some, but she does it all so well that it’s incredibly charming and highly addictive.
“Locomotive” starts off the album with a driving beat and Winston’s characteristic undeniable hook that gets in your head and stays there. It features a slight twinge of electro-pop while still avoiding an over-produced sound.
Next, the title track, “Sister Wife,” is an irresistibly catchy song and a twist from the usual “love gone wrong” theme of many songs. Her play on the term “sister wife” is easily understood by the listener and is like a cultural time capsule of America’s current fascination with the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who have a bunch of wives.
She hilariously declares with gumption, “Hey there, Sister Wife / Get the Hell out, it’s my night / You don’t know the way to his heart like I do.” The song shines as one of Winston’s best.
“Sweet James” is reminiscent of She & Him’s 60s girl group-influenced love songs. It’s a bouncy tune similar to Zooey Deschanel’s cheery, clever songwriting.
“Sweet James” is a modern cousin to the Motown-style tunes about innocent affection between girl and boy, complete with Winston’s endearing “ooh oohs” and loving declarations that this James fellow is “nice as nice can be” and “true blue.”
The one blunder of the album is “Don’t Care About Anything.” It seems to be meant as an emotional, stripped-down change of pace from the rest of the album. However, the track mostly comes off as strangely saccharine wailing until the relief of a somewhat redeeming chorus and violin solo.
“Choice Notes” is the album’s second single and is upbeat with great production that isn’t too over-the-top. Its fresh sound and happy beat has helped the track get grabbed up for some commercials in the UK, where Winston already has a dedicated following.
Sister Wife is a strong release full of charm, originality and authentic talent. From the strong songwriting and the fact that she plays every instrument on the album herself, Winston has quickly proven that she is a talent to look out for.
It is obvious that as she heads this week to perform at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival in the music mecca of Austin, Sister Wife is only the beginning for Alex Winston.
88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.