Alex Cameron has never opted for subtlety. In 2017, his album Forced Witness explored the vantage points of vagrants, perverts, and even murderers, voyeuristically relishing in their perspective. Of course, Cameron disparaged these characters — he told Brooklyn Magazine: “My goal was to paint this realistic portrait that if a person ever came across it, they’d be compelled to have a look at themselves.”
So, it’s not surprising that on his latest release, Miami Memory, Cameron is blunt as ever. While the album’s primarily dedicated to his partner, actress, and artist Jemima Kirke, his shrewd self-scrutinizing lyrics tackle sex work, gaslighting, and toxic masculinity, with a balance of playfulness and intensity.
When it comes to Cameron’s relationship with Kirke, he doesn’t hesitate to express love in a Cameron-esque way — which is to say, equal parts crude and doting. On titular track “Miami Memory,” he reminisces about, “Eating your ass like an oyster/The way you came like a tsunami.” But, on the album’s final track, in a spoken interlude, Cameron solemnly intones, “Sometimes I find myself contemplating what my life could be like after you've left me, and it's a dark place.” These jarring opposites are distinctly Cameron.
However, Miami Memory waters down his signature sound in favor of emotional complexity. The synth and snappy beats have mostly disappeared in favor of piano and drums (though never fear, Roy Molloy is still there on the saxophone) and Cameron’s voice feels less piercing. While this sonic change aligns with Cameron’s transition to love songs — he told GQ that he found his “ideal muse” in Kirke — it’s hard to avoid feeling like something’s been lost. While Cameron sets his sonic eccentricity aside, he mostly makes up for it in his lyrics.
It wouldn’t be Alex Cameron’s album without wordplay, notably so in “Gaslight.” He sings, “I hold you tight/And use my gaslight” so lovingly that it’s easy to mistake “gaslight” for “flashlight,” a galling error that layers a pseudo-sexual tune with a devastating undertone. “Bad For the Boys” sardonically criticizes incel-esque men who mistreat women and still expect their love: the repeated line, “Never thought I’d feel bad for the boys” is layered with snark. And tied to his wordplay, of course, is his ever-present sense of humor. In “Far From Born Again,” a power-anthem for female sex workers, Cameron calls a woman, “in command, in control,” then adds on the chorus: “Far from born again/She’s doing porn again.”
On Miami Memory, Cameron’s jerky style remains — just with a polish. “Divorce” is a catchy, propulsive track, and “Miami Memory” unspools in a beautiful, nostalgic haze. Perhaps the track most similar sonically to his previous work is “Stepdad,” with its pushy synths and accelerated chorus. Even the less gripping tracks thrum with enough life to bob your head along.
Aside from being a love album for Kirke, it’s unclear what threads tie this album together besides similarly fun beats and Cameron’s distinct tenor. He promotes sex work, excoriates incel-adjacent men, and discusses PC culture amid love songs like “Miami Memory,” which are firmly trapped in romantic — though often sexually explicit and lyrically inventive — scenes.
Perhaps it’s best to say Miami Memory evokes just that — a moment of heat, captured. Where Cameron tries to capture his lover, the terrible men of Forced Witness, and women’s rights all in one album. Ultimately, this album is best thought of as a photograph of this fraught time period, and his relationship, all in one.