“Great rootsy feel…with some lovely harmonic twists”
“Enhancing a growing reputation as one of Britain’s finer songwriters. …it confirms that he’s also a gifted guitarist… exquisite fingerpicking beautifully complements a nicely judged vocal performance”
[Thumbs Up] Proper job...a lovely picking style and a distinctly English turn of phrase.
4/5 Stars: “A gentle yet compelling listen…this is a seriously good EP”
“The songs are perfectly crafted and full of warmth and intimate moments. This is a record well worth picking up”
July 2017– Full Review below...
“…it is rare to hear a songwriter so astutely match up words with music so that one complements the other to perfection”
“a truly talented songwriter”
“Circles is a small, bright gem of a record”
July 2017 - Full review below...
The “…fine point where voice, music and lyrics come together in a perfect symbiosis, feeding off each other in a unique way…worth its weight in gold”
“…intricate and inviting lyrics reach out through the softly engaging melodies and multitude of hooks”
“…an intriguing and absorbing listen, observational and contemplative”
“…an overarching impression of immediacy that gives the narratives an urgency to convey their messages, which makes this compulsive listening”
“‘Curious Heart’ is utterly addictive”
June 2017 – Full review below…
"Alex Seel’s Other Paths EP is a hugely impressive musical calling card, with each of its five songs showcasing a different side of this multi-talented musician’s skills. His ear for harmonies and his subtlety as a lyricist are revelatory and it’s to be hoped that a full-length album follows before too long".
Aug 2015 - Full review below...
“…charming finger-picking skills… honest, likeable voice…Seel’s songs are open, sparse and earthy. …‘Oh The Glamour’…would sit comfortably on Radio 2’s current play list… Seel is certainly one to watch”.
Oct 2015 - Full review below...
Rolling Stone Magazine (Italy)
“…a mastery of fingerpicking techniques and a repertoire of unusual chords; a fine poet with a very personal vocal style”
"His songs have echoes both of Nick Drake and Bert Jansch, two of his leading sources of musical inspiration, and listening to Alex in concert is balm to the soul…"
Oct 2013 - Full translation below...
Folk Radio UK
"Introducing: Alex Seel – Shifting Sands Album Reviews
"‘Shifting Sands’ is the perfect showcase of a fine songsmith and artist. A strong second release from an artist deserving of a lot more exposure".
Oct 2013- Full review below...
[Thumbs Up] Alex Seel Circles (EP) (Alex Seel). Proper job, triple threat troubadour with a lovely picking style and a distinctly English turn of phrase. Poor Boy shares its title with a Nick Drake song but recalls 1970s Wizz Jones, while The Island reveals a McCartneyesque melodic faculty.
“A gentle yet compelling listen.
Alex Seel seems to be keeping his fans on the edge – since ‘Shifting Sands’ came out in 2013, to mass praise, all we’ve had since is an EP in 2015, but now there’s something else to get stuck into. Unfortunately for his fans, it’s another EP, but on the flipside, it’s brilliant. Writing sublime folk music seems to come naturally to Seel, and EP opener – and self-titled name – ‘Circles’ kicks off things in excellent fashion, with masterful fingerpicking, and this is a continuous theme throughout the EP. ‘Curious Heart’ takes this onto another level, while ‘Broken Faucet’ and ‘Poor Boy’ have a full band joining the party, with very good results. Seel’s stock will continue to rise following this EP, and all this is going to do is increase demand for a new album – hopefully, we can see that sooner rather than later, as this is a seriously good EP” - Christian Brown
Enhancing a growing reputation as one of Britain’s finer songwriters, ALEX SEEL returns with the Circles EP. A lyrical exploration of life’s pitfalls & freedoms, it confirms that he’s also a gifted guitarist, something particularly evident on songs such as ‘Poor Boy’ and ‘Curious Heart’ where his exquisite fingerpicking beautifully complements a nicely judged vocal performance.
July 2017. By Adam Jenkins
The well-travelled Alex Seel is back with an EP follow up to 2015's Other Paths and the critically acclaimed Shifting Sands in 2013. Music may have led him from Devon, to London, to Ireland, and back to London again, but his travels have clearly bled back into his songs. Comparisons to the likes of Nick Drake and Bert Jansch certainly aren't too far from the mark, with his delicate finger picking style, and understated vocals.
Circles is an impressively varied EP, each of the songs different in feel to the rest. The title track is a gentle melodious with the intricate finger picking style right at the fore. The vocals here feel deliberately softened, allowing the song to meander along at a lighter pace which allows the beauty to shine through. Broken Faucet introduces Sam Winwood on drums and Matt Prime on keyboards, which leads to a fuller sound, but they act to highlight the guitar and the warm vocals of Seel, which is how it should be.
Poor Boy is a little more bluesy, and is one of the stronger songs on the CD. Seel's vocals are particularly unleashed in the chorus, which with the band backing him almost transforms this into a crowd friendly indie track. The Island is a great folk rock track, with a gentle poetic beauty to it, dream-like and ethereal. Curious Heart is a return to Circles solo style, which perfectly highlights the lyrics, and proves the comparisons with Drake are well founded.
The EP finishes with acoustic versions of Broken Faucet, Poor Boy and The Island. These are far from superfluous additions, each giving the listener a whole new perspective.
Circles is a wonderful EP, and proves that Alex Seel is an artist of considerable talent. The songs are perfectly crafted and full of warmth and intimate moments. This is a record well worth picking up.
Folk Radio UK July 2017. By Thomas Blake
Alex Seel likes to take his time. Since 2013’s critically acclaimed album Shifting Sands all we’ve had to keep us going is one five-track EP – 2015’s excellent Other Paths. Now he’s back with another EP which sees him combine the winning formulas of those two previous releases – the folky prettiness of the former and the grittier, harder-edged contemporary protest songs of the latter – to come up with something that is, if anything, better than either.
Seel has often been compared to some of the greats of the folk music scene, notably Bert Jansch and Nick Drake, and indeed opening title track Circles sees him drift in on a lovely, fingerpicked guitar motif, influenced, perhaps, by Jansch, but gentler and somewhat more baroque in its approach. In fact, it veers closer at times to Jansch’s old musical sparring partner John Renbourn, and given the song’s lyrics has a fittingly cyclical feel to it.
Broken Faucet sees the introduction of a full band. The fingerpicking prowess is still evident, however, and the melody jogs along with a catchiness that would be the envy of many a radio-friendly country-pop superstar. Sure, the traces of Americana are strong, and there is even a touch of Bruce Springsteen about the windblown, road-weary electric guitar solo that concludes the song, but there is also a distinct but mysterious Englishness that emanates from the heart of the record, the same kind of low-key that made artists like Nick Drake and Robyn Hitchcock so instantly recognisable. In Seel’s case, it comes, at least in part, from his voice, which is warm and well-travelled without ever being overly saccharine or mannered.
That voice comes to the fore on the bounding, bluesy, Poor Boy. It sees Seel come back to the socially driven subjects he explored on Other Paths. Lyrically, it is subtle enough to avoid preachiness while the music is confident and forthright, anchored by Sam Winwood’s adroit drumming.
The Island is maybe the most fully realised combination of full-band drive and fingerpicked pastoralia, its understated folk-rock template concealing a host of memorable hooks. Seel’s precision playing finds an effective counterpoint in Keith Abingdon’s slide guitar.
Curious Heart sees him return to a purely solo approach, although the song’s gentleness is deceptive: the lyrics manage to be both timely and timeless, concerns that are undoubtedly contemporary are handled with a quiet, universal wisdom. Jansch is again a musical touchstone, as are Paul Simon and the much underrated Ralph McTell.
As well as the five original tracks on Circles we are treated to three ‘acoustic mixes’ of the three full band tracks, Broken Faucet, Poor Boy and The Island. They make for a worthwhile addition, providing something of an insight into the songwriting process while also showcasing the dexterity of Seel’s playing and the depth of his singing. Broken Faucet becomes a crisply strummed traveller’s blues, the dark humour of the lyrics become even more apparent, the chorus more prominent. Poor Boy’s verses gain a lo-fi, old-timey feel that chimes well with the song’s subject, while The Island takes on a bittersweet note, full of a yearning for freedom that encapsulates the entire EP’s lyrical preoccupation.
Circles is Alex Seel’s most personal release to date. His voice is a thing comprised of equal parts comfort and mystery, and it perfectly suits the songs, which are intimate but at the same time just a little bit untamed. The lyrics are full references to return: coming back to cherished places or returning to oneself on a more metaphysical level, and the music is immensely self-assured without ever losing its hint of vulnerability. In fact, it is rare to hear a songwriter so astutely match up words with music so that one complements the other to perfection. It might seem like a basic thing, bet when it actually occurs you know you are in the company of a truly talented songwriter. Seel is certainly one of those, and Circles is a small, bright gem of a record. We can only hope that a full-length album is on its way in the near future.
Folkwords - 29 June 2017. By Charlie Elland
“There’s sometimes a fine point where voice, music and lyrics come together in a perfect symbiosis, feeding off each other in a unique way. Find that point and you have a match that’s often worth its weight in gold – many strive, some find it. The 'Circles EP' from Alex Seel does. The edgy, slightly frangible vocals pitch perfectly with the finger-picked guitar amplifying the pathways explored in the lyrics.
Telling everyday tales the intricate and inviting lyrics reach out through the softly engaging melodies and multitude of hooks – the result is an intriguing and absorbing listen, observational and contemplative. Seel uses a natural tenor to add a certain tenseness and agitation to the songs. There’s an overarching impression of immediacy that gives the narratives an urgency to convey their messages, which makes this compulsive listening.
And the stand out tracks? The lead track ‘Circles’ arrives somewhat uncertainly, engages slowly but ultimately holds, ‘Broken Faucet’ delivers a subtle lyrical punch, while ‘Curious Heart’ is utterly addictive”.
Acoustic Magazine - Issue 110 Oct 2015
“The five songs on the Other Paths EP show off Alex Seel’s charming finger-picking skills as well as his honest, likeable voice. Citing Bert Jansch as one of his leading sources of inspiration, Seel’s songs are open, sparse and earthy – no doubt due to having lived in a caravan by the sea for a few years. “It was bound to have an influence on what I write about”, says Alex. The EP’s opening track, ‘Oh The Glamour’ is perhaps the strongest track. With its Lumineers-esque catchy hooks, vocal harmonies and picked riffs, the song would sit comfortably on Radio 2’s current play list. Seel is certainly one to watch, particularly if you like McCartney’s early solo acoustic work”.
Folk Radio UK
Aug 2015 by Helen Gregory
Other Paths, the new self-released 5-track EP by Alex Seel, finds the singer/songwriter and guitarist honing his distinctive sound and finding a harder edge, both musically and lyrically. The more bucolic sound of 2013’s Shifting Sands has been upgraded to startlingly good effect. How much of this new-found abrasiveness is the result of Alex’s relocation from Ireland to the mean streets of London is open to debate, but if the social conscience and commentary displayed in his lyrics is any kind of guide then I’d say it’s definitely been a factor: the move has clearly paid dividends across the board in terms of his creative output.
Lead single and opening track ‘Oh The Glamour’ showcases Alex’s re-energised sound in one of the EP’s highlights; it’s an uptempo, rolling major key song with some nicely juxtaposed almost-dissonant guitar fills over Sam Winwood’s ticking, clattering drums. Lyrically it’s a neatly-observed cautionary tale of an unnamed film star who, having attained the fame she craved, finds it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
‘Distant Echoes’ is a more introspective affair with Alex’s intricate fingerstyle guitar meshing with some nicely understated drumming. His use of multitracking for the song’s harmonies is particularly striking; lushly layered voices swoop and swirl and it’s a great reminder both of what a fine voice he has and how accomplished a lyricist he is, in this tale of resilience in the face of self-doubt.
Alex revisits his earlier, pastoral sound in ‘Weight Of Dust’, the EP’s one track where no additional musicians appear. Over a deceptively simple fingerstyle acoustic guitar, spiralling endlessly around, the lyric paints a poignant and sensitive word picture of an older man, wide awake in the small hours of the night with only his fears for the future and memories of the past for company and for comfort.
‘Virtual Grief’ is a sardonic look at the way social media has changed the ways in which we interact and the apparent superficiality enabled by new technology. It’s an idea worthy of exploration and the show-and-tell lyrics are easily the match of 10cc or Steely Dan at their acerbic best. Alex overdubs a reggae-tinged electric guitar behind his fingerstyle acoustic while Bradley Burgess adds some subterranean bass rumbles, but again its Alex’s knack for multitracked harmonies that really shines.
The EP closes with another highlight, the bleakly majestic ‘Hollowed Man’ which (I think) references T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem The Hollow Men; although where Eliot’s main concern was Europe after the First World War, Alex’s lyric focuses on the after-effects of war on one soldier. It’s a powerful and disturbing anti-war song with an arrangement which is by turns sombre and emotive. Sam Winwood’s drums rise and fall over the bass as Alex’s echoey, distorted powerchords drop like artillery fire before the smoke clears in the coda and the last notes fragment and fall apart into a squall of feedback and delay.
Alex Seel’s Other Paths EP is a hugely impressive musical calling card, with each of its five songs showcasing a different side of this multi-talented musician’s skills. For me, his ear for harmonies and his subtlety as a lyricist are revelatory and it’s to be hoped that a full-length album follows before too long: he clearly has a massive amount of potential which deserves to be tapped and brought to a larger audience sooner rather than later.
Rolling Stone Magazine (Italy) - Oct 2013
The Wave of Soft Folk from Alex Seel
by Angelo Vaggi (translation by Graham Timmins)
I'm taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100 and in order they are: Miley Cyrus , Katy Perry, Lorde , Avicii and Lady Gaga. So, is it true that music today is just a product for teenagers brutalized by the apps?
No! Especially among emerging artists, where there has spread a creative energy to 360 degrees in all genres. It’s simply not magnified by a commercial comeback record, but it is wide and growing across the web and in club performances. In particular, I noticed the return to folk (more or less rocking) thanks to artists like Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons, Iron and Wine and Kurt Vile, who are receiving more and more popular attention.
I want to draw your attention to Alex Seel, an English guy who's devoted his life to the guitar, with a mastery of fingerpicking techniques and a repertoire of unusual chords; a fine poet with a very personal vocal style.
His songs have echoes both of Nick Drake and Bert Jansch, two of his leading sources of musical inspiration, and listening to Alex in concert is balm to the soul after a rough day.
His second album, Shifting Sands, is a collection of eleven songs which range from the intimate simplicity of Swallow Song to the acoustic rock blues of Welcome Back, finishing with a marvellous interpretation of There's a rhythm by Ron Sexsmith.
Alex is someone who knows how to read the clouds, and who loves the thorns and not the rose. He has a mind stained with the powder from a butterfly's wings, a heart shaded with poetry and the knowing fingers of a fingerpicking acrobat.
Folk Radio UK
Introducing: Alex Seel – Shifting Sands Oct 2013
Remember the chorus to War by soul singer Edwin Starr? “War!” he growled before asking, “What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’! (sing it again!) Memorable phrase, isn’t it? There’s a brilliance to its structure. Using this sentence form of “Word, Question about Value of Said Word, then Answer,” we can have a form of deductive reasoning called, logically, Edward Starring. If we take the complimentary argument found in War, then Edward Star it, we get this provoking statement: “Peace! What is it good for? Absolutely everything (sing it again!) It’s like R&B Aristotle.
Extend it to any subject you’d like. Here’s a musical example: “Bridal Chorus! What is it good for? Weddings (sing it again!)” Or: “Amazing Grace! What is it good for? Definitely not dancing (sing it again!)”
But these judgment calls are as debatable with music as with War and Peace (both the concepts and the book). Often music is all about the context of when it’s played or performed. Therefore, an easier question most of us can answer, however subjectively, isn’t “what’s certain music good for?” but when is it good? At what time does this song/album/compilation/playlist fit in our life?
Which brings us to Shifting Sands, a collection of dreamy music by troubadour Alex Seel and hewn from the dual traditions of Nick Drake and Ram-era Paul McCartney with a touch of early Cat Stevens. Seel’s musical origins have a mythic vibe. He learned his craft on a coast in Dingle, Ireland, living in a campervan while gaining experience and improvement as a songwriter and performer with his band of minstrel friends.
One pictures him plucking away at some new progression as the ocean clouds shuffled in lightly, and that’s probably where his music probably works best for some people. His art is not for intense jogging, for a beautifully loud day at the park or a festive parade with company. It is contemplative, smooth, pure. It needs silence and utmost attention to let his songs breathe in their fitting environment.
But don’t they breathe when you let them. The album’s technical aspects are great and featuring straightforward production that allows for us to focus on the music, and on the singer’s strengths. Seel is talented, blessed with a lovely fingerpicking style and a uniquely rickety tenor that displays a proclivity for clean swoops to the next note. His voice is his own, and he phrases the material in a way that recalls a rarer kind of singer, the type of lover who lets things go and even opens the door for the tyrannical muse. There is no snark. Perhaps this would have come in handy on The Ox and Thorns Not the Rose, emotionally complex songs, but his mode of expression fits the material.
Speaking of Thorns Not the Rose, it is a lovely, sorrowful track of blunt self-examination: “A troubled cure for a troubled mind…” Seel reasons, then later on, “If the mirror she holds shows light/ appreciation is all in vain/ shows the parts of you you despise/ take a whole lot of medicine to kill that pain.” As a strangely affecting mixture of a modern confession and Robert Burns poetics, it avoids the cliché its title’s metaphor could have been in a lesser artist’s hands.
Many of his lyrics are opaque, emphasizing nature and the external surroundings that often employ (to use Ginsberg’s line) “chains of flashing images” in lines like “Shaping clay dragons, wind on the window pane, that’s alright.” Monkey’s Tail is a perfect White Album outtake, a nursery rhyme ditty for a campfire escapade that shows the singer’s roots of playing ‘round the midnight embers in Western Ireland with his musician friends. Welcome Back is a most bluesy number. He sounds like he’s channeling unplugged Clapton, forgoing the tired “she did me wrong” chestnut and instead offering an encouraging congratulations for the return of an old friend. The album ends with “There’s a Rhythm,” where Seel, immersed in melancholy music, tells us to dance on in spite of it all, and you actually believe him for a moment.
So, to Edwin Starr this album, we must ask, “Shifting Sands! What is it good for?” Many things, but especially as show-piece for a talented musician with much potential. Follow up question: When is it good? That’s up for debate, but perhaps it’s really good, to quote the recently departed Lou Reed, in that place between thought and expression. And with Shifting Sands, you’re there regardless.
Review by: Shane Kimberlin