Ahmed Aly - Selections from 'Miles More to Go'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Ahmed Aly, an independent singer songwriter hailing from Cairo, Egypt. His latest studio endeavor is ‘Miles More to Go,’ an album we’ll be delving into a selection of songs from here on the Spotlight. The record, which was produced in Nashville and London, spans a bevy of genres in the “pop-rock” spectrum. The pop singer songwriter scene is certainly an inundated one, but Aly is attempting to break through that noise. How successful is he at doing so? Let’s find out.

‘Leaving,’ a tune featuring female vocalist Madeline Wise, exhibits a strong chemistry between the two lead talents. At times, Wise’s croons enter Lucinda Williams soundalike territory, but the two lead vocalists bounce off one another well in a lush pop landscape of punchy percussion and electrifying lead guitar. Lyrically, the track is often forgettable, but the vocal harmonies between Aly and Wise and very strong.

In a way, the melancholy ‘On A Plane’ is a stronger track than ‘Leaving,’ especially in regard to the instrumental performances. The acoustic orchestration is beautiful, accented softly with waterfalls of synthesized string sections. In particular, the instrumental interlude in the middle of the track is absolutely stunning. It wonderfully complements the soft-spoken ‘Table For Two,’ a song that houses Aly’s best vocal performance and lyricism in this selection. The foot-tapping pop ballad is actually quite lovely, especially in its final moments as the electric guitar breaks loose.

Aly’s musical output includes some entirely instrumental music as well, as showcased in the pensive ‘Chasing Dusk.’ Out of these six songs, ‘Chasing Dusk’ is the undeniable highlight of the collection. While Aly’s pop vocals are enjoyable, the production of ‘Chasing Dusk’ is hauntingly beautiful, elevating the artist’s sound from basic pop rock to sophisticated instrumental composition. It is most certainly a direction that Aly should explore in further depth.

Perhaps like ‘Chasing Dusk,’ ‘Starlight’ shines brightest as a piece of instrumental composition. Aly’s pop vocals are doused in lyrical stereotypes that lessen the impact of ‘Starlight,’ but the song is recovered by the nuances of the production. ‘Fairy Queen,’ however, is quite a pretty love ballad, even if calling someone a “fairy queen” is a bit kitschy. The atmospheric space ‘Fairy Queen’ occupies does make for a surreal listening experience.

Ahmed Aly’s music is especially strong in the arenas of production, composition, and instrumentation. ‘Chasing Dusk’ exudes this prowess, and Aly’s music is at its strongest instrumentally. His lead vocals, while pleasant, are often burdened by forgettable, cheesy pop lyrics. If the lyricism was to improve, Aly would be armed with a perfect arsenal. In the meantime, these are still fun songs worth a spin.