Over the course of just a few years, Boston-based songwriter and educator Alexander Fatato has quietly carved a place for himself as one of the most promising musicians in the thriving New England indie rock scene. Fatato’s latest album under the understated moniker Alexander, DIFFICULT FREEDOM, expands on the gentle, ‘90s-indebted folk that he explored on 2020’s excellent WONDERLAND. Produced by Brad Krieger of Big Nice Studio (Horse Jumper Of Love, Ian Sweet), the album was recorded using a makeshift set-up in Fatato’s father’s church and office in Western Massachusetts. However, while the release came to life in homegrown surroundings, it sounds as developed as any album laid to tape in a proper studio.
With its lisped, poetic lyricism, “Graveplot” recalls TRANSATLANTICISM-era Death Cab For Cutie, or recent artists like Sinai Vessel. “Socks” is mournful and meandering, in a way that brings to mind Smog or Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Best of all, the closer “Guidance” is soaring, alternating between subdued verses and an impassioned hook. “I’m tired of being super emo and wrote ‘Guidance’ on the Wednesday before we recorded. It’s no secret that my secret to personal success is routine and perseverance, in spite of the days where I can’t get out of bed,” Fatato told me over email. Grappling with themes of emotional regulation, perseverance, and mental health, DIFFICULT FREEDOM might be the best Alexander record to date.
Of the record, Fatato says: “On a Friday afternoon in January, Brad Krieger picked me up from my house after testing negative and we went to his studio in Rhode Island to pack up however much equipment we could fit in his Prius. My dad let us hole up in his office and church in Western Massachusetts for the weekend, and by Sunday morning we had recorded and arranged nine songs. There were many moments where the task seemed impossible and discouraging, but these feelings were always overridden by strokes of luck or laughter. My mother would come by at dinner to drop off a large homemade meal that inspired us to keep pushing. I think the songs are reflective of this process and the space we were in.”
DIFFICULT FREEDOM hits streaming services this Friday (10/1), but you can give it a spin a few days early here, and be sure to pre-order it over on Bandcamp!