Who is music for? I ask myself this question a lot, coming to a different conclusion each time. Selfishly, I like to think that music is for the people—to be enjoyed by the masses, by the fans who make artists’ careers possible. Other times, it dawns on me that without the artists themselves, there wouldn’t even be music in the first place, so isn’t music really for them? It’s a tough question that I’m not sure has a real answer, but what I’ve come to realize is that it doesn’t really matter. Thinking about this question doesn’t change the essence of a song, but it helps people like you and me understand the background behind it, or maybe see it from a completely different lens.
So, when an artist is candid about the intended audience of a particular record, it’s a great opportunity to make sense of the album through a more specific angle. Take Alex Bleeker, known probably best as the bassist of Real Estate, who’s solo album Heaven on the Faultline is, at heart, a record about Bleeker’s own, personal relationship with music. “I wanted to capture the moment in which I fell in love with making music to begin with,” he says. “This is music for myself—me getting back to music for music’s sake.”
The latest single from the album, “La La La,” is a perfect display of Bleeker’s genre-bending skills. Folksy, partly country, slyly psychedelic—“La La La” captures the inventive, swaying tradition of Cosmic Americana. The track is rooted in a distinctive acoustic guitar sound, with nostalgic riffs that conjure images of West Coast beaches just as much as it makes you feel like you’re riding a horse off in the sunset. At face value the song seems easygoing, but when Bleeker delivers a line like, “Now that you’ve got my love, what can I offer?” or “Love is a fading, foggy summer,” the guitars suddenly seem potently bittersweet. “Let’s not pretend I can shield you from all that noise,” Bleeker admits.
It might sound like Bleeker is making concessions here, but he doesn’t surrender an ounce of creative control. “This song sat around for a year or so before I finally finished all of the lyrics,” he says. “In the end, it’s about disentangling your creative output from the clutches of capitalist thinking in order to serve you, and your art better.” It’s quite an ambitious creative vision, but one that comes to life in the way Bleeker subtly and deftly harnesses instrumentation and lyricism as musical tools that draw power through the other. The intended message may not be immediately apparent, but that’s not really the point. This is, after all, a record that details Bleeker’s own intimate relationship with music, so to expect him to leave glaringly obvious flags that explain every meaning of every lyric would be a disservice to the artistic process. Bleeker may not explicitly clarify every lyric he includes, but, as in “La La La,” he takes your hand and guides you through the track in a way that allows you to appreciate the music, no matter what interpretation of it you have.
From what it seems, it’s looking like Alex Bleeker is blending some of his most recognizable sounds from his groupwork with a fresh, inspired take on music, artistry, and life. His solo album, Heaven on the Faultline, drops March 5th later this year.