The voice is pure, haunted, and dramatic, the guitar playing crisp and stark—a recipe, for me, often, to hit the “next” button. Call me grumpy but I don’t usually like this sort of thing. So what is London’s Steve Halliday doing here that lifts the music out of the realm of overly earnest singer/songwriter fare and into something pretty wonderful?
A few things, I’d suggest. I like, right away, the major-key start to the minor-key song—always a nice and knowing touch. I like, too, the way the opening arpeggios operate at their own pace, slowing down and speeding up based on an expressive rather than a rhythmic imperative. Halliday continues this tempo variation—what in classical music might be called rubato—to great effect throughout the song. Paradoxically, the key to its success is that you don’t even necessarily notice it unless it’s pointed out.
In a subtly related matter of song craft, the lyrics themselves are asymmetrical, using little direct rhyme and in some cases, such as in the opening verse, no rhyme at all:
You were so long ago
You were driving me back
You’re crying, what’s so wrong?
Keep your hand on the wheel
There’s something simultaneously jarring and lovely in this. Whether consciously done or not, the musical and lyrical nonconformity jointly offset the “earnestness” factor rather well. I’m on board.
“Alive Anywhere” is the title track to Halliday’s debut album, which he home-recorded and self-released back in 2009; more recently it made its iTunes debut in January of this year. Thanks to the artist himself for the MP3, which I have permission to share here.