DC-based troubadour Alex Vans creates a unique, shape-shifting blend of rock, folk and pop. His recent self-titled EP is lived in, warm and yet minimalistic, shaped by the hands of a master song-craftsman and high-burnished by the lungs of one of the Capital's most promising young vocalists.
Alex's broad-but-never-bombastic voice is the first thing that strikes the ear, calling to mind Jeff Tweedy, or maybe even the kind of vocalist Conor Oberst might grow up into (if Oberst cared to grow up). Just beneath the spare, plaintive vocals lies Alex's sunny Hendrix and SRV-inspired guitar riffs, creating a bittersweet pastiche that evokes Beck's "Sea Change" period. Not gratuitously, he seamlessly adds in some phrasing nods to the Beatles and The Arcade Fire that serve to add to the tension between traditional and modern sounds.
At heart, though, Alex is a songwriter. Snatches of Leonard Cohen and Elliott Smith glaze over the classic-rock easiness of the finished track with a lived-in darkness, more comfortable than melancholy. Even when it rocks, this is music you'll want to curl up into. The ever-changing speed and intensity breaks up the set, engages the audience and avoids the constant-tempo-as-signature-style pitfall.
Alex Vans and his friends work a prolific tour schedule to make sure there's always a chance to find something else in his music that you hadn't heard before.