Leave it to Zach Braff to fill his movie Garden State with up-and-coming independent artists that will leave shockwaves more than two years later (thankfully). Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky” appeared in the film (but not the soundtrack) and the London-born singer-songwriter has been busy ever since. Natalie Portman throws it on the record player just prior to her `original moment.’ The song also appeared in a Honda Element commercial, and even, yes, you guessed it, The O.C. Mix 1. Four years after the release of the Four Songs EP, Alexi has added several songs to his repertoire with his debut full-length, Time Without Consequence. The album is an eclectic mix of folk-pop, rootsy rock and singer-songwriter sensibility that should see Murdoch garnering well deserved notoriety alongside his fellow Garden State alumni.
Time Without Consequence reflects Murdoch’s intuitive sense for composition; he knows when to have only a tautly-strung acoustic guitar accompanying his smoky vocals just as he knows when to bring in the whole band on the album’s more rousing numbers. Murdoch split his time between Scotland and Greece before taking up residence in Los Angeles. As a result his accent is hard to pin down, but its earthy quality grounds each song with an authenticity that’s difficult to come by in the ever-increasing singer-songwriter field. Lyrics verge on confessional without plunging into the overly sentimental. But more powerful than any of the words Murdoch sings is how he delivers them and the manner in which his powerful voice enervates any resistance held by skeptical listeners.
“Dream About Flying” bustles like Iron & Wine a la the Woman King EP with unique percussion derived from shakers and nearly-tribal drumming. An intricate guitar riff picked at an unusual time signature complements the roots-rock progression and Murdoch’s desperation: “Sometimes, I feel like I’m drowning/ Actually, it’s more like most of the time.” On tracks like “All My Days” and “Wait,” Alexi adopts a sound similar to Duncan Sheik and his own debut. Although there’s nothing quite as catchy and nostalgic as Sheik’s “Barely Breathing,” “Orange Sky” is as soulful a song I think I may ever hear. Where simplicity meets transcendent beauty, you’ll find the plane where this song exists. Consisting of only a few guitar chords sparsely strummed and hand claps to keep the beat, Murdoch’s sincerity is laid bare for all to hear. The simplicity of the line “my salvation lies in your love” had me gasping for breath and smoothing down the raised hair on my arms. At nearly eight minutes, “Shine” is in no rush to build to its rock-out as Alexi grapples with identity and human relationships. The well-prefaced crescendo sizzles and climaxes as delicately as Pearl Jam’s “Release,” minus Eddie Vedder’s signature croon and with the reassurance of “You don’t need strength to be strong.”
“Song For You” and “Love You More” proved my only two points of contention on Time Without Consequence, as they lacked a certain vitality found throughout an otherwise strong debut. If Alexi Murdoch can continue to craft tunes as affecting as “Orange Sky,” success lies just around the corner. In all honesty, I’ll probably remember that one song longer than I will Garden State, which is a true testament to Murdoch’s musical prowess.