On Monologue, soul band Alex and the Seabass deliver a refined elegance unheard in the age of new retro.

Soul and jazz are making a mighty comeback. The success of Leon Bridges’ Sam Cooke-inspired sound, Lake Street Dive’s jazzy-pop vibe, and The New Review’s modern spin on funk are prime examples. These artists are building off a sound that dates back to the late 50s, when labels like Stax and Motown began to shake the world. But the challenge is to take something doused in tradition and make it new. Enter Alex and The Seabass, a stirring new Boston band who have done just that.

Vocalist Alex Sanford and bassist Sebastian Yoma, soul proprietors of Alex and The Seabass, came together less than a year ago. By surrounding themselves with three talented musicians they have already created a distinct, funky, piano-bar sound that fills a more reserved, mysterious corner of the soul revival. Monologue, the band’s four-song debut EP, came out in late September and combines hints of jazz, rock, rhythm & blues, and of course, soul. Though only nineteen minutes long, Monologue embodies a colorful spectrum of emotion with intricate chord-changes, striking storylines, and beautifully stunning vocals.

While every track was composed and arranged by Sanford and Yoma, Monologue reveals the skill and versatility of each band member. Melding with Yoma’s funky bass lines, Sanford’s low, sultry vocals are a powerful combination of Norah Jones’ mellow rasp and Amy Winehouse’s jazzy edge. Hugo Avendano’s percussion is eclectic and smooth while Emiliano Santoro gives tight rhythmic strumming, memorable fills and gritty solo bursts on electric guitar. And keyboardist, Seulah Noh, infuses Monologue with an elegant groove and authenticity that would complement any smoke-filled room. 

The record deals with the process of self-discovery through looking both inward and outward at relationships. In the opening track, “Reputation,” Sanford sings through the perspective of someone wrestling with what people think of her and what is actually true: “They say I’m made of darker matters / But that’s just all they heard / Watch out I came from dirty waters / Backroads and busted words.”

There is a sweet complexity in Sanford and Yoma’s lyricism. It is uncertain whether “Farewell Fair-Weather Friend,” a delicate, melancholic tune that describes a fleeting love affair, is based on a literal summer fling or if the subject is evolving from a past self she just barely got to know. And “The Benefit of It” describes one’s perseverance in the depths of a deceitful intimacy. Sanford belts, “How could I?” and “Why should I?” but infers that truth often comes through experience and pain.

Monologue is a well-structured record best listened to chronologically. Compared to “Reputation,” which grabs the listener’s attention with the tight snare and confrontational lyricism, the closing track, “You’ve Got The Sunshine” is a soothing release. Channeling jazz pianist Bill Evans, Noh’s keys warm the soul, adding further sophistication to The Seabass’s sound.

“For a moment I’m alright / In my tenderness I try / You know I try,” sings Sanford as the song slowly dies out. It is this tenderness that makes Alex and The Seabass stand out amongst other modern soul acts. These cats (or fish…) are carving away at a niche in the soul revival and Monologue is a strong first cut.  

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