The Offering from singer/songwriter Xanthe Alexis could be described as two albums in one. Not in the disjointed way we hear some albums transition between styles, but rather a progression of the story, feelings, and sound.
As a trauma therapist and activist, Alexis has a firm connection with the challenges of humanity. However, in her songs, there is always a mysterious, other worldly influence. That likely comes from Alexis embracing what her bio calls, “the mysticism of her Greek, French, and Native American roots.” Together, we get an album that that’s connected to the present, yet explorational.
The first three tracks ring of the pure folk and classic country sounds that are often associated with Americana. Conor Bourgal’s production makes each song’s message shine, with “Sullen One” standing out as a showcase of his added touches. The song progresses from gentle acoustic guitar, to a powerful piano-led melody, and ends with electric guitar and drums. The musical transitions enhance the strength behind Alexis’s tender lyrical exploration of her experiences as a healer. The album’s title track, “The Offering,” is reminiscent of the country songs I grew up on, as electric guitar twang meets on-point harmonies. In “The Heart Needs Time,” Alexis sings with vulnerable emotion while the music matches the raw essence of the song. Thankfully, nothing was done to soften the mood on this one. Alexis’s true feelings come through as clearly as when she put the words to paper.
As the album progresses, it turns to a different, more modern take on Americana and folk. The first sign of change comes as we switch to “Compass,” a song that tiptoes on the edges of indie pop and retro new wave. However, “Siren” is the one that truly drives home the difference. I will note that it’s usually clear what song I think stands out in my album reviews. Listening to The Offering the first time, I was sure it would be the title track…until I heard “Siren.” Then I was in conflict. Lyrically compelling and sonically distinct, the song has you holding your breath, utterly compelled. Impassioned vocals call for social reckoning while the song dances to an undercurrent of ominous bass and constant drum beat. The orchestral splashes and tom fills make it even richer. I decided to embrace the fact that this album explores enough musical real estate to have two highlights contrasting the beginning and the end of the musical journey.
With powerful vocals set within a wide musical landscape, The Offering explores heartache and faces the uncertainty of a changing world. Xanthe Alexis reflects on these challenges, but with empathy, she instills a feeling of hope on the horizon.