I'm Alive sounds professional, but there is an underlying sense of the uncanny. It's got what I like to think of as the Blue Velvet effect, which is what it sounds like if you're familiar with the movie: even at a small town's most pleasant state, there is a wayward ear waiting to be discovered. I first thought of this when in the first song "It Gets Harder," A.C. Thompson transitions from major to minor key in the middle of a chorus - it's a gutsy move. I was really impressed actually, since I don't run across something that confident and virtuosic in the majority of music I listen to. Most wouldn't even think of it, which of course is a long way to say that I was hooked.
If nothing else, I'm Alive is a wonderful synthesis of man-made and machine-made sounds. In many songs, acoustic guitar provides an obvious backbone to Thompson's alarmingly pretty voice, but there is also unexpected percussion that reminds me of 50s exotica or one of my favorite weirdo albums Eden's Island by Eden Ahbez. Like on his song "Red Tide," there is a totally pleasant, innocuous up-front melody, but every now and then, harrowing animal-like sounds emerge from the background, reminding the listener that the jungle carries dangerous secrets. Or, Jesus, on the title track, "I'm Alive," there is this pulsating scream across the whole song from beginning to end in front of a background that sounds like it could have been a part of Lynch's Eraserhead. That song gave me chills the first time I heard it.
I traded a few e-mails with Thompson to find out that he has been in a few bands in Nashville and works at a psychiatric hospital, but this is his first solo effort. Nashville immediately makes me think of R. Stevie Moore, who Thompson cited as one of his influences. It's understandable in the scope of his DIY ethic and genesis, but Thompson's music is more spooky to me. But not in a 100% scary-all-the-time way - it's more like the haunted house in Disney World where the macabre, weird, and uncanny are hidden in a comedically lurching ride in the middle of every child in the world's daydream. The ghosts are wearing underwear. The ghosts dance in the hall of mirrors. The ghosts are absurd and humorous. But they're still ghosts.