POM 1/22 No.1: Alejandra O’Leary
Alejandra O’Leary was born to a Colombian mother and Irish father in Portland, Maine. Having a different sounding name and being a woman of color both challenged and shaped her as she grew up listening to crashing ocean waves and Beatles records. Specifically, growing up in Portland instilled feelings of being both a native and an outsider. “I’ve always been at home with messiness, big emotions and uncertainty,” Alejandra reflects. “I guess that’s why I like rock n roll.”
After moving to Santiago, Chile at age seventeen, Alejandra became infatuated with the idea of creating rock music and followed her muse across the world for a decade, releasing four albums of original songs, sharing the stage with Guster and Asobi Seksu, and drawing positive nods from outlets like No Depression, PopMatters and Magnet. The sound Alejandra cultivated during this time was an expansive mix of raw rock theatrics, spiky indie bangers, anthemic Top 40 pop melodies, and soulful retro flourishes.
In 2016, Alejandra returned home with her newborn baby to Portland with the intention to record a new album. Never one to follow cookie cutter formulas, she rounded up a group of hand-picked local musicians and sent them demos of her new songs. No other instructions were given, and when they all showed up in the studio, it was made clear that they were going to improvise the song’s final arrangements. Alejandra refers to the band as a pop-up project, asserting “This improvisatory spirit keeps things fresh and thrilling. I find it to be the most enchanting way to create music.”
The resulting recordings have a live-wire feeling to them which reflects their on-the-spot creation. From the twangy 90’s Americana of “Undone” to the shoegazey twilight-rock of “Wires,” O’Leary’s new Maine music, specifically her fifth and sixth studio albums, EVEREST and SUNLIGHT, are packed with a variety of distinctive ‘retronuevo’ sensibilities, all indicative of their creator’s sparkling and soulful spirit.
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