Harlequin is the culmination of over five years of highly prolific writing and recording under a variety of pseudonyms, all of which have seen the reclusive young artist Alex Izenberg marry a frightfully natural gift for naive and romantic melody with a wild sonic adventurousness born of a genuinely eccentric nature. Izenberg's recordings invoke the feel of Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks and even Elton John in scruffy miniature and the familiar specter of those titans of '70s songwriting remain here in timeless moments such as the soaring chorus of "To Move On" and "Grace"'s elegant lilt but they are distorted, warped and corrupted until they sound something new and deeply peculiar.
In the autumn of 2014 Izenberg crossed Los Angeles, to where an old Yamaha upright piano stood in the corner of his friend Oliver's house. What began as a free-form experiment rooted in playful collaboration between singer-songwriter Izenberg and producer and arranger Ari Balouzian soon had become an album demanding full artistic focus and a name. As iridescent as its namesake, Harlequin is a multi-faceted collection of audacious and perfectly strange songs that set out to dazzle and disrupt in equal measure.
Harlequin is a colorful, fantasy of a record, full of concealed charm and mischief - the personalities of its strings, the horns and the echoes of the myriad rooms in which it was recorded all coming alive as supporting characters in its winding plot. Speaking to Izenberg about his process gives one the impression that these songs existed fully-formed in his mind long before they were finally committed to tape by Balouzian and co-producer Dash LeFrancis and then mixed by Chet "JR" White (Girls, Tobias Jesso Jr.).
In fact, it almost seems like, to Izenberg, the songs exist almost entirely independently of himself, as if they have a life entirely of their own and he is just their custodian or keeper. Or as he puts it "When writing I just ask myself, what does this song need from me? And then I give it what it needs."