Ali Neil “Land Before Us”

Independent, 2022

Dazzlingly accomplished debut release from East Sussex future star.

Ali Neil is the ‘showbiz’ name of East Sussex based singer songwriter Alastair Robertson and amazingly this is his debut release. And what a debut it is. Five instant classic songs that show such promise, it’s a little embarrassing. Each track is a moody, dreamy tune, but all have their own distinctive feel to them and they all ooze quality and masterful musicianship. Joined by the incredibly talented Say Anise on vocals, Alessandro Taglione on upright bass, Martin Coaz on banjo and Olly Betts on drums, percussion and production duties.

It’s always a joy to find a release where the listener instantly get hooked into the songs from the get go and this happens here with every song. Neil has a gentle vocal style and we’re very much in the Passenger/Old Sea Brigade feel with these songs. Opener ‘A Place Called Winter’ begins with some lovely sync sounds, followed by his lush voice and we then build with drums and Anise’s gorgeous vocals. Next up is ‘New York’, with a keyboard opening things up and then the drums kick in for another hushed feel, but a memorable tune added to the mix.

Edge of Reason’ follows and it’s the EP’s highlight. Neil’s and Anise’s voices again masterfully mix and there’s a chorus that’s wonderfully hummable. It’s the sort of track when it’s finished you want to play it again to remind you of how good it is. On ‘Damn Life’ we get a slightly more upbeat song – but again the song-writing is fantastic and the dreamy vocals work so well again. Closer ‘Heart of Man’ is another quite simple song – but again vocals work seamlessly together and a banjo adds to the dreamlike effect.

There’s not a lot of variety on offer here – but who needs variety when the songs are this good. Ali wrote these songs having left London for the Sussex coast – a move which seems inspired. This is a fantastic debut and something Neil should be really proud of. More please.

9/10
9/10

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