Alex McArtor bends genres in ‘Welcome to the Wasteland’
June 22, 2021
Alex McArtor’s latest extended play release proves age isn’t a factor in creating pensive, narrative-driven music, nor is it a factor in reaching depth within the maturity of her lyrics.
In “Welcome to the Wasteland,” McArtor synthesizes multiple genres into an EP whose sound embodies contemporary elements of dissonant harmonies and a nostalgic turn back to the swoony countrypolitan ballads of the 70s. This genre-bending EP will be released on June 25.
Since her entry into the music industry, the Texas singer-songwriter has released a string of singles, such as “House On The Bay” and “Speed into Air.” “Welcome to the Wasteland” is her third EP release since 2019’s “Spoken Word” and “Heart Talk, Vol. I.”
McArtor begins the EP with “Wasteland,” and her visually driven, narrative lyrics paint a storyline for listeners to follow along. Her breathy vocals are accompanied by echoey, glimmery instrumentals and a slightly muffled drum kit, creating a unique sonic texture where instrumentals and vocals intersect in melodies and subtle counter-melodies. The tune peaks near its end when McArtor’s raspy voice soars over resounding instrumental melodies from the stringed instruments, showcasing her vast vocal range and volume control.
One of the most meaningful tunes on the EP, “Bras and Jeans,” highlights McArtor’s smoky voice in a clear message against the media’s hypersexualization of young women. The tune’s music video was released on May 12 and featured McArtor and the other actresses wearing white dresses and wedding veils, and this imagery was contrasted by scenes of pomegranates and red umbrellas. “Bras and Jeans” features vibrant instrumentals and undeniably somber lyrics, and this contrast showcases McArtor’s lyrical maturity, making listeners want to delve deeper into understanding the meaning behind her lyrics.
“Stranger” features McArtor’s breathy yet warm vocals that are supported by a consistent drum beat and multiple layers of sustained harmonies. McArtor leans on the echoey tone of the stringed instruments, creating a surreal, almost whimsical experience for listeners. In the tune’s musical interlude, the electronic keyboard takes center stage as it climbs over an octave above the underlying instrumentals. McArtor’s lyrical talent shines through the instrumentals, with lyrics like “won’t you please let me adore you / let me so I don’t have to be a stranger to you anymore.”
A track favorite, “Broken Bone” uses stripped-down, minimal instrumentals to showcase McArtor’s exposed, raspy vocals in the tune’s verses. Once McArtor reaches the chorus, her vocals and instrumentals adopt an echoey tone, making the tune transcend to more of a dreamy, ethereal experience for listeners. If anything, “Broken Bone” flaunts McArtor’s surprisingly mature lyrics with lyrics like “no longer dancing in the tears I’ve cried” and “love is a broken bone / it sets you straight or drives you home.”
In “Doe,” McArtor relies on multiple subtle vocal pitch slides to accentuate the smoky warmth of her voice and the underlying dark, low-tone instrumentals. While there aren’t any stark errors on this track, there also isn’t anything new about this song that McArtor hasn’t already done in the other tunes on this EP.
The EP’s closing track, “Baby, Don’t Cut Your Hair For Anyone,” highlights McArtor’s cinematic, stringed instrument-driven composition abilities, and she infuses this sound with a low-key alternative rock vibe, creating an unlikely yet pleasing complement between the two intersecting tones. This tune is a perfect closer for this EP as the instrumental outro carries listeners to the end of the song and, in relation, to the end of the EP with powerful melodies that recede into the sound of a guitar being unplugged from a live amp, giving closure to the EP.
“Welcome to the Wasteland” is unique in the sense that McArtor leans heavily into genre experimentation and fusion, yet through this experimentation, the EP can’t be pigeonholed into one genre. McArtor blends multiple genres, such as dream-pop and neo-psychedelia rock, into this EP while simultaneously defying our ideas of how we classify music genres.
Although McArtor hasn’t been in the music industry’s spotlight for long, her profound, mature lyrics and her willingness to test the boundaries of genre classification predict a bright future for the 18-year-old artist and her future releases.