Only recently I had bemoaned the death of the album. No doubt, the album is still (in my opinion) a dying art form, but leave it to fate to see the release of the latest New Order and ELO albums during the interim to try and prove me wrong. Both of the aforementioned releases are simply wonderful. New Order has a return-to-form with its beat-stomping synths and clever lyrics, while ELO (aka Jeff Lynne) is full of soothing mellow rock tunes. The latter album, in fact, has been something of a revelation for me.
It can be difficult to described what compels us to gravitate toward certain music. Sure, we may enjoy some genres more than others, but why and how is it that certain songs can, for lack of a better term, touch our soul? The newest offering from ELO, Alone In the Universe, manages to be the musical equivalent of a soul mate. It's not necessarily easy to describe such a connection, but I will endeavor to do so here.
First, it's important that music speak to us, in order for it to successfully penetrate our hearts. It must form some sort of bond with us. Alone In the Universe manages to do just that with me, and accomplished it almost immediately. From the opening song, When I Was a Boy, to the forlorn closing title track, Alone In the Universe manages to encapsulate a range of emotions in just over half-an-hour. With no song hitting four minutes (and some coming in under three), the album knows how to tell its story with brevity.
Earlier I regarded the new ELO release to a musical soulmate. This is because Jeff Lynne's compositions flows exactly how I'd imagine they should. When listening to the bluesy Love and Rain for the first time, I thought it should segue into a sublime breakdown, and it did. When Dirty to the Bone started up, I cringed for a split second, because I hated the title. Then, the melody was gorgeous, and I fell in love with the track. I'm Leaving You is an homage to Lynne's idol and cohort, Roy Orbison, and may as well be considered Roy's first new track in a quarter-century.
Alone In the Universe certainly isn't cutting edge. It won't be heralded as the future of music, or considered to feature any sort of innovative sound. But that's ok. Sometimes, it's nice to enjoy the familiar, to be comfortable with sounds that flow together well, and to relish the notes that touch your soul.