Portland quartet Alien Boy crafts a heartfelt LP that expresses the anxiety of identity, loneliness and relationships in “Don’t Know What I Am”. This is one of those records where a band successfully takes influences from various rock and indie pop styles, infusing it into their sound to craft something new and uniquely their own. Alien Boy’s blend of emo, shoegaze and jangle pop fits perfectly well with vocalist and songwriter Sonia Weber, capturing her sincerity in various facets of life. From disappointments, loneliness and lost connections between our peers and loved ones, one would be hard pressed to not find themselves in the pages of “Don’t Know What I Am” and empathize with its melancholic tunes.
Opener and lead single “The Way I Feel” sets the tone of the album with jangle pop and layers of chorus and distortion. Here, soft and hard sonic textures collide, echoing the emotions laid down in the song. Where it is wrapped inside a complex web full of fond memories and repressed feelings for someone special in the past.
Relatability is one of the strong suits of this album. The heartfelt “Dear Nora” comes to mind as an example, with its swirling riffs mimicking a restless mind who can’t get over someone: “like a teenager stuck daydreaming”. Following track “Heartburn” is also a contender, with a heavier noise profile reminiscent of Sonic Youth that contrasts against Weber’s soft vocals. The line “The world is ending everyday / I wanna love you but I don’t know how” always gets me caught off guard. A stark reminder to always cherish the love that we have.
These heavy emotions get even stronger as we move to the later tracks in the album. “TV Will Always Make Me Cry” is perhaps the best representation of having an identity crisis. The narrator explains their life passing them by without much recollection: “I don’t remember where I lost myself. I used to feel so much / Now I’m nothing but sore and lost.” The words are laid out so plainly yet it perfectly captures the loss of connections with other people and the anguish that it brings. The album ends with a slow-burning heartache in “The Way I Disappoint You”. Bearing strong connection to the band’s name, this song deals with alienation – having difficulty finding your place amongst your peers, seeking solace in certain friends only to find them often fading away.
Don’t Know What I Am is stellar indie pop from an earnest heart that often finds itself hollow and unsure with itself. Yet it’s in these musical expressions that we may find ourselves somehow, or at the very least, one song at a time.