Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan — these are some of America’s great rock-and-roll troubadours. Now we might have to add another name to that pantheon: Alexi Lalas. Not only was the former Team USA defender talented on the pitch, he also sings on pitch with the release of Infinity Spaces, his third — yes, third — full-length original album.
Most athletes who aspire to musical greatness put out albums that are clearly vanity projects—they’re full of guest stars, or overly expensive, megawatt-producers. They come out in quick succession and are usually throwaways relegated to forgotten $2 bin in the back of department stores. (Who can forget that heady period in the 1990s when Shaquille O’Neal released four LPs in five years?)
But the flame-maned Lalas is no Shaq-trying-to-rap. Infinity Spaces comes a long six years after his previous effort, Far From Close, which was released a full decade after his debut album, 1998’s Ginger. This third album is clearly the work of a man given to careful consideration. After all, just look at that minimalist album art — the aesthetic choice of someone given to deep introspection.
All of Lalas’ artistic choices on Infinity Spaces are pretty brave, actually. The record boasts a concise 10 tracks of pop-rock delivered in a strain that’s tightly executed but, by mid-2014 standards, in a way that’s almost stridently unhip. With the charts dominated by dance music lite and watered-down hip-hop, Lalas has instead zagged left, drawing on influences from the great, anthemic, stadium-filling rock acts of the recent past.
In a sea of synthesized, hard-edged, uptempo tracks, Infinity Spaces instead picks up an atmospheric, U2 or Coldplay-esque thread. For the album’s best example, go directly to the third track, “Runaway.” Its slowly building, gently keyboard-driven verses often recall the emotional wallop of Coldplay’s “Yellow.”
What Lalas fans might really appreciate, though, is when he bares his soul on the acoustic “California.” This is where he goes almost Americana – shades of Ryan Adams! – taking on a wistful tone, examining what could have been. “I’m not coming back to what’s left behind,” he sings in the plaintive refrain.
But the guy who used to warm up for soccer games listening to The Cult is not afraid to rock out. The track “Golden Horizon” relies on crunchy chords and fast tempos that scorch the late part of the album. Overall, Infinity Spaces is the work of a man with infinite talents. If you’re a soccer fan — or just a fan of the great songwriters of our time — you’ll want to make space for it, too.