Alex Izenberg’s latest project, I’m Not Here, is a delicately crafted offering. Never spectacular, its charm creeps up steadily, a result of its originality and honesty.
When I spoke to Alex Izenberg last month, he explained that I’m Not Here was made solely for himself. The ten songs and 40 minutes that constitute the Californian artist’s new album reveal this to be unwaveringly true.
Izenberg’s voice is breathless throughout. This works with the tender lyrics, particularly on the aptly titled ‘Breathless Darkness’ and the album’s lead track, ‘Our Love Remains’. Both are brilliant, highlighting the unique quality in his voice that makes his music so intimate.
The authenticity of I’m Not Here is one of its biggest strengths. That the music is so his own is essential to its appeal. It isn’t trying to impress you, which makes it endearing.
The title and the mask-bearing album cover contradict this most personal of sounds. In 2012, Izenberg was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Revealing this publicly adds just another layer of vulnerability, and alluding to it – at least in part – in the very direction of his album is even more commendable.
I’m Not Here was recorded at a local studio in Izenberg’s native Los Angeles. Produced both by him and his longtime collaborator, Greg Hartunian, the setting and making of the album provided Izenberg with complete control over the project.
As much as this fact proves to be a strength, it’s also the album’s prevailing weakness. The control comes through when listening. It ensures that I’m Not Here is a good, enjoyable listen, rather than a very good one. It’s lacking in variety. The stand out moments are all memorable for similar reasons. It’s evident why Izenberg goes back to his strengths, and his ability to highlight them across this album are impressive, but it’s not enough to elevate the album higher.
You get the impression, however, that this wasn’t an easy album for Izenberg to make. His music means so much to him and the topics he explores throughout are challenging. With this in mind, it makes the control all the more necessary, and calling it a weakness even seems harsh – perhaps it’s just an inevitable by-product of Izenberg’s relationship to music.
And I’m Not Here offers an emotional pull that is impossible to create without genuineness. He told me, “I like the idea of making something I can listen to when I’m 90.” In his latest album, it’s clear he has something that he can look back on and be proud of.