Alex Winston’s full-length debut comes on the back of a pair of highly acclaimed EP releases and a sterling reputation to boot. Hailed in some circles as ‘the American Florence’, Winston is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist who’s already played a string of festivals and opened for the likes of Chuck Berry.
King Con confirms her rep as a prospect to watch. It’s an album that digs deeper than it initially suggests. Dark and sometimes disturbing topics are disguised by Winston’s flawless voice and her penchant for delivering melodic Motown-tinged pop.
Winston finds her inspiration in subjects seldom discussed. The title of the LP – King Con – is a metaphor that takes a thinly-veiled swipe at Elvis impersonators and others who make their bread through the parody of others. This theme filters throughout the entire album and is best demonstrated when narrowed on one of the biggest con-men of all, Benny Hinn.
All of this could be easily missed if listening with a casual ear. Winston is a deft songwriter, preferring to covert her thoughts and intentions in the smallest of detail. Those looking for an easy listen, however, will still find joy in Winston’s ability to craft a memorable tune.
The album begins sublimely. Fire Ant, complete with alternating time-signatures, sways and bites with Winston’s expansive palette of vocal styles. Subsequent track Velvet Elvis disguises its subject matter with an opulent chorus equal to the biggest moments from Duffy… and Florence.
Though many songs on King Con – Locomotive, Choice Notes – have appeared on previous releases, it doesn’t take away from the album’s pleasures. A tune such as Sister Wife – another example of a reappearing track – is still fresh to hear, especially when dissecting its main theme of polygamy.
Whenever it feels that the LP is steering toward formulaic (it comes in at a reasonably hefty 45 minute playing time), it is propped up by a track like Benny or Run Rumspringa. Whether it’s her songwriting, voice or production values, Winston simply has too many weapons in her arsenal for any of her songs to become dull or languid.
The release of King Con is helped somewhat by the booming popularity of female vocalists worldwide. Still, one gets the feeling that whatever the preferred genre or status quo, Winston would be critically and commercially accepted regardless. All in, it’s a rousing and eye-opening full-length debut.