Begonia — Fear, 4.5/5

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Alexa Dirks, who performs under the name Begonia, unsurprisingly delivers stellar vocals and raw lyrics on her highly anticipated debut full-length album, Fear.

The vocalist has been a staple of the Winnipeg music scene for some time now, drawing large crowds in with her powerful, emotive vocals and eccentric aesthetic.

She is likely to grow her fan base with a new body of work. While never straying too far from her usual song structure and style, her songs are sure to move listeners.

The styles of Matt Schellenberg (Royal Canoe), Matt Peters (Royal Canoe) and Marcus Paquin (The National, Arcade Fire, Local Natives) — who co-wrote and co-produced the album — are apparent in the tracks. Fear is full of textured synths, slow strings, pop and blues percussion and influences spanning R&B, gospel, indie rock and jazz.

Recurring themes of personal growth, self-doubt and romantic failures are Dirks’s signature. Her lyrics are original in their approach and tone — she approaches her emotional turmoil with honesty.

Her lyrics span from devastating — “And anyway, any day/I wish I was (ooo)/Anyone else instead of myself” to cheeky — “You’re gonna hurt yourself/it’s not your birthday baby” as heard within the song “Beats.”

Opening track “The Other Side” is an eerie, gospel-influenced number that sets the tone for the album perfectly — a bittersweet, yearning track that shows off Dirks’s unique style and vocal prowess.

Audiences will already be familiar with the more energetic songs on the album — “Beats,” “Living At The Ceiling,” “The Light” and “Hanging On A Line” have already been released as singles. The title track, “Fear,” has also been performed at her shows since last year. It is one of the standouts of the whole album, a frenetically paced, passionate track with a catchy hook.

Many of the other tracks are slower tunes, but with distinct instrumentals and subject matter.

“Put It Away” ends the album on a more upbeat note after a succession of slower, sadder tracks like “Mirror Talk” and “Dead Flowers.” The softer section of Fear will not put you to sleep, though — those tracks are captivating in their depth and emotion.

Dirks is clearly comfortable creating a beautiful alternative pop ballad, but it would be exciting to see her experiment more with other musical styles. More wound up, energizing tracks like “Fear” would be fun to see in the future. With her pipes, she can really do anything.