Common Fantasies demonstrates Alex Southey’s development as a songwriter who is comfortable with experimentation while embracing growth.
It was a bright and frosty late November afternoon when I first heard from Alex Southey. I was sitting in my office getting ready for a story meeting at the newspaper I edit when I looked down at my phone to see that I had received a message request on Instagram. I should say that it’s not often (see: never) that an artist reaches out to me directly to ask that I take a look at their music with the possibility of reviewing it. Susceptible, as any writer would be, to any praise I receive for my work—mainly the fact that they’ve taken the time to read it and deemed it acceptable—I decided to return the favour and give Southey’s then-unreleased EP, Common Fantasies,a spin.
Common Fantasties is a mixture of fuzzy grunge-infused indie rock, tender acoustic numbers, and a kind of rollicking in-between fusion that reminds me a bit of Our Lady Peace circa 2005’s Healthy in Paranoid Times or Foo Fighters from a similar era. All this to say, there is a lot to like here. There is potential here for at least three different albums should he decide to pursue any one (or all) of these sonic palettes. Indeed, Southey himself wrote on his Bandcamp that the production of this EP could have gone many different ways. “There’s a version where it’s a full album; another where it’s a double album! There’s a version where it’s just three songs. There’s also an option where – why put it out at all,” Southey wrote. “I felt like by placing together two delicate acoustic songs along with four bigger, grander songs, there’d be this push and pull of inertia.”
It’s always interesting to get a glimpse into the turning points for an artist as it reveals the creative process to be riddled with moments of uncertainty. In my estimation, Common Fantasies demonstrates Southey’s growth as a songwriter and as an artist who is comfortable with experimentation. After listening to it several times, I can’t help but feel that EP reflects a time of exploration for Southey, and I mean this in a deeply positive sense. Following 2021’s …And the Country Stirred, an almost entirely acoustic collection which is most definitely a unified album written and recorded entirely under the context of the pandemic. In contrast, Common Fantasies shows Southey’s capabilities when working with a wider range of instrumentation and amplification.
The title track, easily the heaviest on the whole EP, seems to speak directly to this kind of tension between the old and the new as one is pulled in multiple directions. Past comforts no longer seem to pacify: “These are high highs…and common fantasies/ I’m caught in the in-between,” one verse and chorus goes. Things slow down a bit for “Twist It,” the first of the two slow acoustic tunes on the EP that is more reminiscent of Southey’s previous work. The final verse seems at first glance to be about a personal relationship that has gone awry; however, it could just as easily apply to the relationship between artists and their critics. Hyper-aware of this reality, I refuse to fall into the trap recognizing that I may have already. Alas.
The track that stands out the most from the rest on Common Fantasies is “Soften.” It displays Southey’s range as a vocalist as he moves without any discernable effort between his natural rough baritone to a crystal clear falsetto for the chorus. It also speaks out lyrically, again capturing an element of the form; as the music softens, so does Southey’s voice alongside the implementation of dreamy synth, which doesn’t appear anywhere else on the EP.
All this to say, I’m looking forward to whichever direction Southey decides to go following Common Fantasties. The EP, while indicative of a moment of flux and development for Southey, is certainly more than worth your time. It piqued my interest enough to send me back to his previous work to gauge where he has been and where he might go.
As an aside, if any artists want to slide into my DMs, they’re welcome to at any time. I’m easy. I love trying new things and love the distraction, as my day job has me covering municipal politics and shady university administration dealings.
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