Rob Alexander’s Long Road Coming Home instantly recalls an era of radio dominated by piano-pop pioneers. Fronted by sprightly keyboards, forward-moving percussion, and heady sax breaks, Alexander serves as the hearty frontman to deliver these hook-laden gems. Avoiding direct comparisons by the sheer mettle of his songwriting capabilities, Long Road Coming Home veers more towards legitimacy than kitsch despite the influences so clearly laid out on the artist’s sleeve.
‘Back to the Radio’ speaks to Alexander’s intent with the LP straight away with a rocking sway to its chorus that reflects on the nostalgia so rooted in his sound. Progressive basslines and backbeats find many of the album’s tracks moving forward with a verve and energy capitalized upon by the artist’s resonant grit. Though it often verges on ‘yacht rock’, it never quite approaches imitation cheese; Alexander has a few tricks up his sleeve with the tender guitar tones prevalent on ‘You’re Not Alone’ and the subtle, pastoral folk of ‘Trickle Down’, as well.
The album’s magnum opus is probably in Alexander’s dedication to George Michael, ‘When I’m Gone’. His newest single, the indie artist is gaining radio play for this somber torch song with its sweeping melodies and earnest delivery. Written on the same day as Michael’s passing in 2016, Alexander reflects on a universal question throughout, rounding back through blues-laden riffs and his own powerful croon to inquire: “What happens when we die? How will they react?” It’s for those who’ve gone far too soon, like Michael, but musically comes across almost more like Sinatra in the epic sense—this is Alexander’s clear ‘My Way’ equivalent to get a crowd roaring.
Long Road Coming Home won’t be for everyone. While it isn’t quite kitschy, it’s a love letter to the sounds of the 80s. Alexander’s songwriting stands tall beside the likes of Richard Marx and Elton John and, more often than not, production hits its mark for the indie artist, too. Therein, he establishes his own artistry for a newly-expanded audience, all while recalling simpler times. Perhaps, just perhaps, it will spark something, and he will be a voice at the front of the movement.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm