The bassline of “The Soul or the Skin,” the new single opening track from Rob Alexander’s Young Man’s Eyes LP, pulsates like a beating heart as the song arises from silence and fills the atmosphere with its sonic sorcery. Resisting the urge to swing to its ominous grooves is futile, as anyone who gives this song a spin will find, and it doesn’t take more than a mere verse for listeners to end up cornered by our singer’s cratering harmonies. The music is boldly bittersweet, but Alexander’s vocal shapes a cathartic center within the track that, were it not joined by any additional instrumentation, would still warrant the attention of serious music enthusiasts everywhere.
We’re ensnared by the vocals and their evocative textures as soon as our leading man commences in dispensing his stately lyrics, whether a romantic pop vocabulary is a part of our lives or not. He doesn’t let us stray from his stare; his voice drifts over the strings with a selflessness that makes his words so much more accessible and acerbic, and though the beats are inviting and dance-inspiring, they don’t even come close to matching the comely texture of his singing. I knew I was in for a treat with this single, but I never could have guessed how sophisticated a treat it would be.
As the drums stagger behind the bass with a reticence that recalls youthful inhibition, they indirectly echo the swing of the vocal, which to some extent is more engrained in the framework of “The Soul or the Skin” than the percussion ever is. Still, without these blunt beats to back up his lyrical vibrations, Rob Alexander’s new single simply wouldn’t be the power ballad that it truly is. His vocals are the star of the show, but they aren’t the only reason to give this track a place in your daily playlist.
I’m the type of fan who puts a lot of stock in the master mix of any song, and in the case of “The Soul or the Skin,” we’re made to feel small beside the mammoth drawl of Alexander and his band. I found that this mix lets us experience what it would be like to be in the front row for an intimate club performance, where the only external elements accentuating the music would be smoke rings and the faint scent of brandy. This song isn’t varnished in pop plasticity; it’s authentic, unpolished, and relentlessly insistent.
A star single in every way conceivable, “The Soul or the Skin” challenges us to give Rob Alexander the controls and let him take us to a place of utter bliss in what amounts to the most endearing three and a half minutes of pop/rock music you could ever ask for. Anyone who has been following the evolution of Alexander’s music is well aware of how much promise he has as a performer, and this track only adds to his reputation for making unadulterated gems with little more than his erotic style of singing. Young Man’s Eyes quite honestly feels like one of 2023’s biggest releases, and this second taste of its content is the most decadent thus far.