Real Estate bassist Alex Bleeker has always had a more roots-leaning feel as a songwriter, something that isn’t especially evident in the handful of songs he has composed for the band. When he plays with The Freaks, however, Bleeker’s alt-country leanings are quite obvious. On How Far Away, the band’s second album, Bleeker’s songs remain as wistful as ever, yet something dark is lurking beneath the surface. It’s an album about heartbreak, lyrically recalling Jeff Tweedy at his most lovelorn while simultaneously evoking the stoned Americana of the Grateful Dead.
Musically, Bleeker’s default mode with the Freaks is “unassuming,” and that’s still the status quo on How Far Away. Its 13 songs breeze by without much fussing or drama. However, Bleeker’s lovelorn lyrics, particularly on songs like “All My Songs” and “See You On Sunday” undercut the relaxed feel of most of the songs here. Still, Bleeker’s lyrical directness, while overtly simplistic at times, is often engaging, and he succeeds at roping the listener into the album. Ultimately, How Far Away is a delightful, charming listen that showcases Bleeker’s continuing growth as a songwriter. In a few years, Martin Courtney and Matt Mondanile might have to watch out.
– Kevin Korber