Sasha Bell has been involved with a handful of projects that have released some of the finest 60s-inspired pop records of the last two decades. Whether with the Ladybug Transistor, The Essex Green, or The Sixth Great Lake, she adds a special touch to her music that is dreamy, lush, and pastoral. Now, for the first time in her storied career, she’s stepping out under her own name, releasing her first-ever solo debut album, Love Is Alright, out November, 9th 2019.
The Essex Green’s most recent album, last year’s superb Hardly Electronic, found them contemporizing their sound while retaining the pleasing elements of their distinctive retro sound. Love Is Alright also follows that pattern, blending a more contemporary style with touchstones from the past. Perhaps that’s not surprising, as her contributions had originally stemmed from what would become the album you’re holding now.
Yet Bell’s influential reference points for Love Is Alright are a bit different. Whereas her bands have generally focused on a more baroque pop element-par for the course considering they’ve long been a part of the Elephant 6 collective-the sounds found here touch upon 1970s fare. Vocally recalling Judee Sill or Melanie Safka, while the arrangements occasionally recall the work of Melissa Manchester, Carly Simon, and even the occasional nod to ABBA. Written over the past several years and recorded in San Francisco at The Studio Time Forgot and at Jason Quever’s (The Papercuts) studio, it’s an album full of sophisticated arrangements that is quite easy on the ears.
Love Is Alright is a journey through time, small moments writ large. Whether she’s singing about missing The Essex Green (“Candy Mountain”), stress management (“Molly’s Got A Talent”), reflections on relationship struggles (“Castle Keep”), a grandmother’s obsession with rare books (“The Library” ), or a tribute to a deceased bandmate (“Heavy Doors”, a eulogy to San Fadyl, drummer for The Ladybug Transistor, who passed away in 2007) Bell invites you into her world via a wistful musical diary.
After a rewarding career that has resulted in a discography of excellent music, Bell is now stepping into the spotlight on her own, and Love Is Alright is an unsurprisingly excellent first step forward, a step that isn’t surprising for those who have followed her career, and one that offers up a delightful, subtle, and sublime experience for the new listener.