Sasha Bell had been making records for more than two decades when she delivered her first proper solo album, 2019's Love Is Alright. The splendid songwriting, beguiling vocals, and expert but intuitive instrumental work in this material makes clear this is an artist who knows her craft and knows it well. At the same time, Bell is one musician and songwriter whose lengthy history in music has not left her feeling jaded by experience. Love Is Alright is music steeped in the freshness and joy of someone in love with music and the possibilities of its creation. The melodic constructs of Love Is Alright will not seem entirely unfamiliar to those who followed Bell's work with the Essex Green, the Ladybug Transistor, or her one-off project Finishing School. That said, the influence of '70s Laurel Canyon soft rock and '60s Baroque pop in the arrangements is significantly stronger than in much of her earlier work, while leaving room for some contemporary indie pop experimentalism, and there's a subtle fire in these performances that makes them feel strong and straight from the heart. The playful lilt of Bell's vocals reveals a surprisingly strong backbone, especially in the subtle snark of "Icy Hands," the sweetly rueful memories of her musical past in "Candy Mountain," and the confident seduction of "Lemonade." While Bell crafted Love Is Alright over the space of six years, the results don't sound the least bit overcooked; the performances and production are artful but lively, inventive without seeming rote, and it isn't often that a veteran artist steps forward as a solo act with music that combines well-honed gifts with original thinking the way this material does. Love Is Alright doesn't just build on the legacy Bell created with the Essex Green, it blazes new trails of its own, and you don't have to be a longtime fan to appreciate the album's pleasures.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming