We’re apparently ready to bust out the nostalgia-googles for early/mid-‘00s rock radio. Less in the first wave of Nu-Metal (as that somehow hasn’t died a proper, fiery death yet). More in the anthemic soft-rock that thought U2 was the greatest band of all time. Alyse Vellturo was on the management side of the music business for years before making Pronoun, so her revisit of these formally chart-topping sounds could have a slice of cynical logic to it. But on her deeply flawed, yet ultimately fun, debut, Vellturo sounds too giddy for that to be a foundational concern.

For melody fodder, Vellturo could’ve picked a worse era. Say what you will about Lifehouse, Matchbox 20 and the rest, if they took one thing from Bono, well it was the self-aggrandizement, but if they took another, it would be the maximalized choruses. And Vellturo slathers these sugar-filled romps with hooks. The All-American Rejects would have killed for the fuzzed out guitar lead of “Sadie” and Snow Patrol could have done some damage with the slow-mo burn of “Some People.”

But there is a reason that sound slipped so easily down the memory hole. It doesn’t take much for the echo and reverb over very earnest vocals to congeal into a single morass. And i’ll show you stronger falls into this trap quickly. There are spikes of interest, but they only elevate from a general floor of apathy. Adding to this lethargy is her voice, which has been shoved to the back and coated in fluff, so that few lyrics actually come to the forefront. It would be easy to put any placeholder lyrics from generically sad or anthemic songs over top such music, as if all these tracks are just prefab containers. For example, the chugging rhythm of “Temporary Tantrum” displaces a neatly hooky chorus line. With a more confident sound in her pipes, she could overcome the unnecessarily plodding drum line, but instead the ephemeral effect lets nothing stick. Then she’ll get captured by pop-rock clichés. The penultimate track has both “you can’t go back” and “it feels so wrong” as foundational lyrics, followed by a warbling synth line that seems destined for a corporate ad purgatory. It manages to unnerve a cutting guitar solo and some angelic harmony lines that climb and climb, but never ascend beyond the rest of the mess.

When Vellturo rises above, she pushes her voice and embraces the punk. Or at least a polished form of dance-punk. “Stay” is a rushing nugget of sugar, the younger sister of Tegan and Sara’s “Hell” from Sainthood. Vellturo’s voice finally gets to shine, offering up tongue-twisting visions of 18 wheelers barreling down highways and her own inability to keep her shit together. If this had been released in the late ‘00s, it would have been an alt-rock hit and auto favorite for the Rock Band crowd. “As If,” the album’s other summit, similarly rides a twitchier vibe thanks to a skittering drum performance giving a nervous energy to the nominally smooth guitar and voice duet.

Vellturo isn’t an industry plant. She’s having too much fun; something which is contractually destroyed in most business agreements. But it is telling that her safer moments are her most snooze-worthy and when she lets loose, we finally match her for blissful dizziness.

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