The album titled above is the latest release from the solo artist Alex Zarou Levine. Levine is more notably known as a member of The So So Glos, a punk band based out of Brooklyn and consisting of three brothers. Between album releases for his main music gig, Levine formed the persona of Alex Orange Drink: a tribute to a character version of himself that is rooted in his experiences with a diagnosis that requires an orange drink medication as treatment. The solo project of Levine is immersive via instrumentals that serve as a narrative soundtrack for his captivating and clear lyrics and vocals which emit refined rawness comparable to artists Jeffrey Lewis or Nana Grizol.
On to Alex Orange Drink’s latest major release, my gateway to the album was discovering the song “It’s Only Drugz (Limerence)” which was also released as a single prior to the album drop. The song’s vibrancy is fueled by dynamic instrumentals and background vocals that make the song catchy and entertaining. The track is easily repeatable without becoming tired or bored and acts as an appropriate trailer for the rest of the album.
The full album, Everything Is Broken Maybe That’s Ok, continues on par with the song discussed above: the contents are cohesive and complementary while avoiding becoming replaceable for one another. After listening to the album in its entirety, an analogy was clear in my mind: a teenager’s high school journal, full of angst and emotion. Alex Orange Drink’s work is the music album version of an offbeat coming-of-age series that only runs for one season- the series Freaks and Geeks comes to mind. The theme of the album pulls from a stage of life that is rich in material. This source makes the album relatable and charged by the intensity of adolescence.
The album leans into my journal analogy as the entire compilation feels like a story, with each song being a daily entry. The order of the tracks feels intentional: the first song, “Brooklyn, Central Booking,” acts as the journal cover that heightens the general qualities of the entire album (unique lyrics, entertaining progression of instrumentals, etc.). The album continues the narration by varying the tempo and emotion from song to song, making each track feel significant and distinguishable. “Homocystinuria Pt. 1 (1987- 1994)” and its corresponding Pt. 2 tell the same story of adolescent struggle (in this case, Levine’s health issues) but in two different versions. Pt. 1 acts as a break in the album with a slower tempo, a melancholy tone, and calmer vocals and instrumentation. While Pt. 2 functions as the primary representation of teen angst with head-banging chords that feel like the musical embodiment of a ripped-out and crumpled journal page that, once unfolded, features an entry of angry ink jottings ending with multiple, sloppy exclamation marks. The last notable song in the album’s narration is “Sun is Only Shining (Everything is Broken)” which feels like the panning out and rolling credits scene of our series analogy- proving the song’s success in its position as the concluding track. The track’s lyrics and calm melody convey the aging realization that comes in teenagehood: that the world is, in fact, not ending, but you are still not okay.
Alex Orange Drink manages to encapsulate angst into relatable songs that validate your feelings and experiences while balancing it out with awareness via lyrical irony “I am the only one of me who has felt this uniquely; I’m the only one that feels at all.” Overall, the album is truly fantastic due to Levine’s use of content vulnerability, dynamic vocals and instrumentals, and a delivery that is interesting and genuine. In a more tangible measure, I would rate this album as a mid 8 on a 10-point scale; the only area where the album falls short is with one or two songs that act as a filler when compared to the other tracks (and my personal contention with the spelling of the word “okay”). In other words, I would not be upset if this album got stuck in the CD player of my 2008 Saturn Astra. I would highly recommend giving Alex Orange Drink and his newest album a listen if you enjoy alternative/indie rock. The So So Glos’ hit song “Lost Weekend” is also a good alternative for a more established and less eccentric starting point.