Cohere, by Alex Vargas
Suggested by Dave Parkinson
From its mesmeric and breathless opener to its spacious and ethereal final track, Cohere is beautiful album, full of swelling synth and soulful singing. Everything sounds wide open, as if all the songs were orchestrated and performed under strict social distancing rules.
The first track proper, Sweet Abandon, has a sparse and almost ominous feel, reminiscent of Teardrop-era Massive Attack. The falsetto vocals are tremulous but not reedy, and at perfect peace with their surroundings. As the album progresses, the vocals become more direct, more soulful, and there’s a touch of Seal in there, albeit without Seal’s raw power.
Alex Vargas makes each song sound personal without being maudlin, which is a skill considering the album’s overall tone. The songs are all independent, but they do rather meld into one at certain stages, especially when they flirt with the Obvious Single territory. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all beautiful, but there is a sense of sameness about some of the songs. Maybe it’s in the vocal melodies, or maybe it’s in the echoing tone, but at times it’s tough to differentiate where one track ends and another begins.
Even so, there are some standout songs that are more than their mould. My personal favourite is Indivisible, which is perhaps the most uplifting song on offer. There’s more to love, such as the aforementioned Sweet Abandon or the more straightforward single fodder Tidal.
There’s nothing to dislike on Cohere. It’s accomplished, and it has soul, and it’s very pretty indeed. Listening feels like a relaxing sunlit day spent in the open air, with songs like a gentle breeze. Sadly, I feel it’s a little vanilla for me. It lacks a sense of verve, a swagger. It almost feels too earnest, an album that’s waiting for you to declare your love with all-too bated breath.
Overall, I’d give it 6/10 as an album of unquestionable, unassuming beauty. I just prefer my music a little more arrogant, flicking two fingers to the crowd with a knowing sneer.