CD Review of Still-Life Moves by Alex Nackman
Recommended if you like
John Mayer, Howie Day, Ari Hest
Label
Long Road
Alex Nackman:
Still-Life Moves

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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M
usical trends come and go, but young, starry-eyed girls are never in short supply – which is why there has always been, and always will be, a big market for guys like Alex Nackman. Like many of his peers, Nackman is a talented singer and guitarist, but his biggest asset might be his ability to exude the sort of artfully rumpled, downcast, completely non-threatening sexuality that has glued a million John Mayer posters to bedroom walls.

This sounds like a knock, but it really isn’t – it’s just that, you know, if Nackman looked like Paul Giamatti, you wouldn’t be hearing his softly anthemic love songs in episodes of “The Hills,” and he probably wouldn’t have his own Wikipedia entry – much less one featuring “Nackman is gorgeous. <3” under “Discography.” His image has nothing to do with his music, in other words, but an awful lot to do with why people are listening to it. Good for him.

Anyway, enough about Nackman’s dreaminess – let’s talk about the music. If you’ve spent any length of time in the Awarestore, you know what to expect – exceedingly sensitive, extremely well-crafted adult pop, heavy on the soaring melodies, with no hard edges. These songs won’t make you want to pump your fists, but they may make you want to put on a peacoat, head for the nearest pier, and stare meaningfully into the sunset. Still-Life Moves will probably move you most deeply if you have breasts, but anyone with a soft spot for melody will find the album sporadically impossible to resist.

Safe as the music is, Nackman occasionally reveals an honest-to-God flair for delivering solid pop hooks; the album’s first two tracks (“Wait for Me” and “A Letter”) pack a mean one-two punch, and suggest that he might even out-Mayer the competition someday – provided, that is, he learns to avoid wandering into long, soggy patches of mid-tempo balladry. Though Still-Life Moves perks up occasionally after the second track – “Beyond the Blame” and “Berlin” flex a little muscle – much of the album is painted with the same muted tones of gray.

Not that there’s anything wrong with gray (as Nackman’s nearly 14,000 MySpace friends would be glad to tell you), and all niggling aside, Still-Life Moves goes down exceedingly smoothly. Still, it’s hard to hear the album’s brighter moments without wishing Nackman was a little less focused on vibe and a little more concerned with putting together a full-bodied album experience. This is his fifth release since 2003 – maybe by lengthening the incubation period between albums, he’ll be able to separate the wheat from the chaff a little more successfully. In the meantime, there are pretty girls to be serenaded, and sunsets in need of soundtracks.

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