At just twenty-two years old, Alex Pester has already established himself as a prolific singer-songwriter hailing from Bath, England. He has released three albums to date (Devotion, 2019, Seasons, 2020 and Lover’s Leap, 2021) each displaying his immense talent as a musician and songwriter. Influenced by the Incredible String Band, the Beatles, Robert Wyatt, Animal Collective, Harry Nilsson, and The Microphones, among others, his music has been described as dreamlike, hypnotic, and magical.
Better Days, his fourth album, will be out on Violette Records on May, 26th. It is Pester’s most accomplished work yet, showcasing his mature songwriting, complex arrangements, and exquisite attention to detail. The album features ten songs that range from instrumentation with vintage sounds to storytelling passages to suggestive sound experiments and acoustic caresses.
What Alex says“ Are You Gonna’ Make Her Choose? is about romantic partners putting each other in difficult situations through ultimatums and misunderstandings. We can often base our relationships on the most convenient versions of ourselves, and this often leads to disappointment. Are You Gonna’ Make Her Choose is ultimately about a couple that has decided to hurt one another than admit that things aren’t working“
“Hello, I’m Alex Pester. I make chamber pop music in my bedroom and sometimes in a studio, I have a lot of talented and patient friends. My new album, Better Days releases on the 26th May and I’m excited to share it with you. The album features a variety of styles, from ornate chamber ensemble arrangements (think Nick Drake meets Burt Bacharach) to experimental jazz passages. It sounds majestic on vinyl, so if you can, buy one!“
His Mixtape: “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about some songs I really love, I hope you find something unique in them.“
Vashti Bunyan- Mother
I chose to begin my playlist with Vashti Bunyan, an artist I feel a great kinship with. Her music exemplifies a quiet grace and an uncharacterised set of reference points, that make her truly unique within the twin worlds of folk and alternative music. She never seems constricted by the trappings of genre, her music exists on its own terms. I think the song “Mother” is particularly beautiful.
Todd Rundgren- Healing, Pt.1
We then take a bit of a U-Turn with Todd Rundgren’s Healing, Pt.1, which is more of a feeling than a song. The insistent bass and drums feel as easy to listen to as it is to breathe. It’s a wonderfully tranquil piece with a longing at its core, influential on some of the more ambient songs on my new album Better Days.
Joanna Newsom- Easy
Another switch-up. “Easy” is my favourite song of Joanna Newsom, it captures such an alluring yet broken promise. At one point imposing, and the next recoiling. It’s her mastery of dynamics that allows songs like these to come off naturally. Truly brilliant.
Burt Bacharach- Something Big
With the passing of musical greats comes a feeling of guilt amongst music fans and music-makers. I must confess to having only a passive appreciation of Burt Bacharach before his passing last month. I am in awe of his chord progressions, it could so easily veer into schmaltz but there’s just such a life-affirming honesty to his writing that I can’t help but play it again and again. Jim O’Rourke’s cover is also a masterstroke.
Robert Wyatt- Gharbzadegi
I love Robert Wyatt’s music. When I was 16 I told myself that ‘Rock Bottom” would always be my favourite record, and in some states of mind I think it will always remain that way. Nothing touches me more deeply than that record. This track is about “Westernitus”, a phrase most colonials are unfamiliar with. It touches on some very relevant themes in our increasingly divisive times. The music is just gorgeous, shifting from a syncopated photo-trip-hop groove into a cascading wall of pained chords that only Wyatt could string together. I love this song.
Judee Sill- Lopin’ Along Thru The Cosmos
Judee Sill is rightly regarded as a master of harmony, and this song feels like communion. A balm for your soul, “However we are is ok”
The Microphones- The Moon
I was fortunate enough to attend a songwriting workshop with Phil Elverum of The Microphones late last year and talk songwriting with him. The directness of his approach has been a great inspiration, not to mention his acoustic layering and experiments in stereo panning. The Moon is a song I used to play at full volume while running down hills after my night shift when I was 17 and working my first job. It’s the sound of finding comfort in your small life while striving to understand people and the world just a little bit deeper.
Mark Hollis- The Colour Of Spring
This song and the record it accompanies, Mark Hollis (1998), is a lesson in dynamics, subtlety, mixing and vocal performance. The intricate detail of microphone placement presented on “The Colour Of Spring” is truly a marvel for me, I think this one song taught me more about recording piano than any other. Hollis’ vocals are like a lamb on the mountain, hesitant but true. When the first daffodils push through, I think of this song.
Better Days will be out on May 26th on Violette Records. Look HERE for more information on Alex Pester.