I first discovered Alex Isley while digitally crate digging on Soundcloud, a practice that has led to the discovery of many amazing, albeit lesser known, artists. I listened through all of Love/Art Memoirs, Alex’s then-latest EP. She was speaking to the lover in all of us on this project: Hopeful, deeply immersed, struggling with a broken heart. I found this project to have something for everyone. The biggest standout on Alex’s EP was “Set In Stone,” which chronicles the challenges of ridding one’s thoughts of a love who loves someone else. The harmonies on this finale song are as ethereal as the rest of the album but follow the strength of the production with a strong and unrelenting kick and side stick snare. There aren’t a lot of instruments, as to not disrupt or clash with her skillfully layered background vocals. And that is accompanied by her powerful but not heavy lead vocals. I recently spoke with Alex who told me that she began Love/Art Memoirs while pursuing a Jazz Studies degree at UCLA.

Photo: Soundcloud
Photo: Soundcloud

“I want people to connect to what I talk about in my music. I want people to know that they’re not alone in situations; they’re not the first and won’t be the last. I take pride in my vulnerability and honesty in my music. I think it’s important to be upfront and clear through my art and my passion. So, whatever the situation, if I can help someone to connect or identify with something, I think that can only help them in the long run,” she said.

I think that I understand Alex’s sound and the lineage behind it. She is the daughter of Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers.  If we go back to classic Isley Brothers songs such as “Voyage to Atlantis” or “Summer Breeze,” we hear where she gets her harmonic influence, clearly. Alex began classical vocal training at age 12 and attending LA County High School for the Arts where she would emerge as a jazz vocalist.

When asked what she hopes to contribute to her family’s musical legacy she tells me:

“I hope to add to what I’ve musically learned from them. In being influenced by several artists, I definitely hope to carry on the foundation of what they’ve established, which in simplest terms is R&B/Soul. I think that what I’ve taken on for myself as an artist will hopefully add another dimension to their foundation. There’s jazz, classical, and folk that I’ve been influenced by. Their sound is definitely rooted in versatility as well, and I think my influences can be an extension and continuation of that.”


Isley Brothers
Source: popmatters.com

When I heard about her newest project LUXURY, I assumed there’d been nothing between Love/Art Memoirs and this forthcoming music. But, upon more research, I discovered that she’d released DreamsInAnalog shortly after the first EP. It sounds like a continuation of Love/Art, and, in fact, these two projects could have probably been condensed into one full length album. The similarity isn’t boring like in the way that we find many artists of today making the same song over and over again. Alex has a consistent style. It’s a matter of being able to immediately tell that it’s an Alex Isley song when it comes on. She’s mastered that. If you’re obsessed with the television show Friends, like I am, the standout on Dreams will obviously be “Ross & Rachel.” In this tune, she asks her lover why they can’t have a love like that — where even though they fight and leave, they always come back together. It’s creative and finds a way to infuse pop culture from a different medium into her music.

Alex is fantastic because she writes and produces her work — except for the remarkable covers she does in the interim between projects. Where many of us take issue with modern day R&B/Soul is that a vapid song about lust and sex takes 15 writers and 8 producers, where some of the most meaningful love songs of days gone by (such as *cough, cough* The Isley Brothers) had one or two writers and those people were also the producers most times! Not only does Alex bring the spirit of the in-depth love songs with her as the next generation Isley, she also continues to sharpen her craft as a songwriter and producer by being the sole creator on her projects. This is not to say that she eschews collaboration. One of my favorite songs by her is a collaboration with LA-based artist Jav0nte called “Running Back,” produced by the incredible Jarius Mozee, who has worked with artists such as Lalah Hathaway and BJ the Chicago Kid.

“In general, being independent means responsibility and accountability. Financially, sonically, promotion-wise… in my case, every aspect begins and ends with me. It’s great to take matters into my own hands, but I have to accept both pros and cons of that,” she said.

The biggest question on my mind and probably every fan of Alex Isley’s is whether or not she’ll reach the heights of her father and uncles. The climate of music as she comes to prominence is much different than it was for her predecessors. While sonically it’s agreeable that she has carried on the family name well, with the onset of streaming, downloading, and the over-saturation of the indie marketplace one wonders: Will her name be the extra push she needs to rise to the next level? Only time will tell.

Check out her new work, LUXURY, on her Bandcamp page.

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