Gabriel Birnbaum is a multi-instrumentalist and arranger, with a history of working on some noisy projects with other bands. At first glance, it might be a surprise to see that this album is quite simple and pared-back. But it fits in perfectly with the theme of his work – not being alone in a world which makes you feel like you are.
The track Stack the Mile is perfect for this realisation, with its very simple chord progression. It allows for the vocal line to really take precedence, and with everything reduced to its simplest, the work that goes into each track comes to the fore.
This album is called Not Alone, but it could easily be called Experiments, as that is what is going on. Birnbaum has spends his album experimenting with a variety of different sounds and styles on his album, although when it comes to vocals he does seem to favour a distinctly Bob Dylan-esque sound. He experiments with genre too, as the songs run the gamut. The majority of the album is upbeat, an almost rock sound. This makes the soulful tracks of I Got Friends and Archives more noticeable when they happen. And of course, the Bob Dylan style vocals mean that there is always a touch of folk.
This isn’t to say that the album is disjointed in any fashion. Despite his experimentation, Birnbaum manages to retain a sound which is uniquely his.
This is Birnbaum’s first solo effort, but that isn’t to say that he is alone in doing it. He has three people collaborating with him, all of whom provide vocals at different points, and a variety of instrumentation. This makes some of the lyrics quite amusing, as on Blue Kentucky Mile with the line ‘I’m all alone’ being repeated with other people singing on the same track!
Blue Kentucky Mile is a stand-out. The story behind the song is Birnbaum driving to meet a certain somebody, and the style of the song is such that any listener would feel as if they themselves were riding along with him. The listener could either be listening to the track on the radio while in the car, or listening to Birnbaum himself sing it as they ride along.
There is a saying that where words fail, music speaks, and this album definitely speaks. Each track has its own ways of saying that Birnbaum is most definitely not alone.