Among its assorted charms, “Alexander” features honest to goodness horn charts—that is, a fully developed and arranged horn section. Good horn charts almost always walk the fine line between earnest and goofy and that is true here too, thank goodness. The whole song walks that line, in fact, from its purposefully rushed and over-eager intro to its throwback melody and an overall vibe blending elusive strands of ’40s and ’50s pop into a 21st-century indie rock stew. Nicole Smith sings with a fetching combination of velvet and sass that magnifies the bygone vibe; there have been a precious few female rock’n'roll singers over the years who have been able to channel the pre-rock’n'roll era with conviction. Add Smith to the list.
But it all comes back to those horns (tenor sax, trumpet, and trombone, to be precise), which we first hear as emphatic punctuation in the succinct and splendid chorus. But don’t miss how they ingratiate their way into the second verse—along, I should note, with some well-placed finger snaps and a nifty shot of ’40s-style harmonizing. And while our ears don’t necessarily pick them up directly, there are strings at work here too—two violins, a viola, and a cello. Keyboardist Dan Marin wrote the horn charts, while guitarist Jesus Apodaca—whose day job is as a public-school orchestra teacher—arranged the strings.
The Royalty is a five-piece band that has been playing around the El Paso area since 2005. “Alexander” is the lead track from the outfit’s debut album, self-released digitally via Bandcamp earlier this month. Thanks to the band for letting Fingertips host the MP3.