Out of nowhere, a quiet, calm and unassuming young woman explodes into a passionate ball of fire. She's not some freakish bipolar Transformer. She's Alexis Marceaux.
The New Orleans native receives a national release of her sophomore album, "Orange Moon," on Aug. 26. The album is currently available through online retailer CDBaby.
The 22-year-old Marceaux grew up in a musical household, with her father a player in the local music scene. She started performing publicly at 7 and wrote her first song at 13. After graduating high school at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Marceaux dived into a music career as a solo artist and later as a member of the band, Glasgow.
Marceaux teams with partner and producer Sam Craft and engineer Rick Nelson, who doubles as violinist for Polyphonic Spree, to deliver the colorful "Orange Moon." Marceaux's vocals, guitar and percussion are backed by Craft's vocals, strings, guitar and percussion. More than 25 New Orleans friends and musicians add to the multi-layered effort.
On the follow-up to her 2009 debut, "Dandelion," Marceaux moves from pedantic singer-songwriter territory to a more developed, lush and exciting sound. Marceaux exhibits an incredible maturation in her songwriting skills on "Orange Moon." Unlike her previous effort, her new songs create a wild curiosity in those listening.
Marceaux dedicates the album to her friend, Leila Foret, who died of cancer in 2010. The opening track, "Leila and the Orange Moon," is a stunning tribute to Foret. Though starting slowly with Marceaux's mournful singing, it opens wide within a minute, declaring itself a song of celebration rather than defeat. Powerful horns blare in the background, with Marceaux and Craft chanting, "So strong like the nightlife, like the moonlight, like the moonrise, so bright." It is nearly impossible to not be sucked into "Orange Moon" after the dazzling eulogy.
Besides "Leila and the Orange Moon," the "Orange Moon" is packed with unsuspected transitions. There's no lack of aural entertainment. Marceaux's hymn-like presence at the beginning of "Sur Mon Chemin" develops into the questioning exclamation, "So, who the hell are you?" and then diverges into a zydeco-influenced jam.
New Orleans' artists are known for incorporating regional influences into their personal styles; the combinations result in exclusive, often incomparable art. Marceaux is one these artists, pairing familiar Louisiana sounds with influences like Carole King and Radiohead, as well as giving it her individual touch. The best example of this mish-mash is the breezy "Only One Basket."
Marceaux's songs are quirky, yet intriguing. "Brains" provides bizarre visualization with lyrics like, "Brains, scattered on the ground, they're scattered all around, and I can't find my eyes." There's fingers and tongues on the ground, too. Who knows what Marceaux's using the assortment of body parts to represent, but it makes one hell of a weird but amusing song.
"Orange Moon" is just more than 25 minutes in length, but Marceaux makes excellent use of every moment of the album. Marceaux and Craft's stretching harmonies are layered over tracks several instruments deep, resulting in divinely rich presentations. They even find perfect placement for handclaps, chimes and decorative vocal instrumentation in the little crevices in between.
"Orange Moon" wraps with the Marceaux/Craft-penned "Wishing Well," a song written from the perspective of a Gulf pelican fleeing the 2010 Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill. Marceaux probably wrote with herself in mind, too, as she was forced from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She bites, "You suckers will be lucky if I ever come back." Here's hoping that Alexis Marceaux comes back and next time with more music.
Find Alexis Marceaux online at alexismarceaux.com.