Avril Lavigne
Head Above Water


4.0
excellent

Review

by Elizabeth Hanson USER (2 Reviews)
February 15th, 2019 | 76 replies


Release Date: 02/15/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A masterfully crafted collection that warmly recalls the era of album-driven FM rock radio.

She’s sold millions of records, at the age of 34, she still looks better than some women half her age. Yet on Head Above Water, Avril Lavigne still sounds down. Five years on from the sun drenched, radio-friendly self-titled record, Lavigne's taken a 180 degree turn – her new album is light on the good-time country blues that made her name and heavy on the sad, wistful ballads.

It’s not as big a departure as some of the advance publicity has made out, as Lavigne's music has never been a stranger to melancholy. Songs such as "My Happy Ending" or "Sk8er Boi" were always steeped in a sense of sadness, while the deceptively upbeat The Best Damn Thing had the bittersweet refrain of “it's innocence, it's brilliant”.

Yet this is a different sound for Lavigne, employing string arrangements for the majority of tracks here (all written by Lavigne). The difficulty with string sections is avoiding them sounding overblown and Avril succeeds admirably here.

When Head Above Water works, it works beautifully. The lead single "Head Above Water" is gloriously uplifting with a melody that, on first listen, washes over you but after a couple of plays sounds like an old friend. The slide guitar from long-time collaborator J.R. Rotem also adds to the general classiness of proceedings. The title track is a beautifully intimate number, featuring just Lavigne , an acoustic guitar and Stephan Moccio's unobtrusive string section.

Lyrically, it’s not the full-on love letter that some people may have predicted, although "Love Me Insane" is a rather slushy and forgettable number. One of the best tracks on the album, "Dumb Blonde", is a poignant look at the modern stereotypes. Telling the story of a "Birdie", “who can't sing, but I buy you diamonds and ruby rings”, it’s a sad, yet hopeful, song which sounds even more effective in the acoustic version at the end of the album.

The one problem with Head Above Water is its lack of variety. Although the air of wistful melancholy is beguiling for a while, it gets a bit samey over the course of an album. Songs such as "Souvenir" and "Bigger Wow" sound like Lavigne on auto-pilot. It comes as a blessed relief when "Goddess", appears, a great, up-tempo rocker that could easily sit on Lavigne's classic debut album. Both "Goddess" and "Warrior" have an almost Beatles-esque quality. The former is most notable for its lush harmonies, and the latter’s stark arrangement makes Lavigne's breathy delivery impossible to ignore. Likewise, with its Carlsson piano and tambourine, "I Fell in Love with the Devil" is a saccharin sweet pop ditty that wouldn’t be out of place with the early ’90s work of Beatles devotees Jewel.

A few more tracks like "It Was In Me" could have lifted this record from a good Avril Lavigne record to a great one. Yet, for all its flaws, it’s still a better album that most of her contemporaries would be able to produce – while Head Above Water may not restore her to the high profile she enjoyed a few years ago, it’s still a timely reminder that she’s one of Canada's more talented songwriters working today.


user ratings (74)
2.2
poor
other reviews of this album
SowingSeason STAFF (2.2)
All my life I've been good, but now......

Brendan Schroer (1)
Avril Lavigne's finally growing up... and maybe she never should have....

nomiddlename (2)
Maybe this should have been an EP....

Mason (2)
So "Here's to Never Growing Up" was a lie, what next?...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 15th 2019


17039 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Good review Liz, although it reads more like a 3 than a 4 I think.





Digging: The Stargazer Lilies - Occabot

veninblazer
February 15th 2019


10191 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Fuck, I forgot this was coming out. I had it pre-saved on Spotify, so I might peep.

Digging: Norma Jean - All Hail

LizHanson
February 15th 2019


9 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

^ Well, I rated it for 4 out 5, because she literally was almost dead when she records this album, she was ill with Lyme syndrome. I respect her effort and overall album sounds as very solid longplay.

veninblazer
February 15th 2019


10191 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

She sounds pretty rough on "Birdie", but I'll see what comes next.

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
February 15th 2019


11152 Comments


"at the age of 34, she still looks better than some women half her age."

Lol, is 34 the new 50? xD

LaurenPaulson
February 15th 2019


8 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I am very pleased with this album. Initially, I gave a low rating, but later I became convinced that this was the strongest record in her career. Avril recorded this album for more than 5 years, she experienced huge health problems and was able to make the album on a positive note.



If this is not the best album of the year, then definitely the best pop album in 2018.

Lucman
February 15th 2019


3524 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

Solid review, but this album is just not good at all.

Digging: Origami Angel - Somewhere City

Sailors
February 15th 2019


4 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Simply the best.

GhostB1rd
February 15th 2019


4497 Comments


In a rare occasion where sitarhero isn't being retarded, he's actually right that girls age 34 should look better than they do at 17.

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
February 15th 2019


11152 Comments


Who the fuck are you?

GhostB1rd
February 15th 2019


4497 Comments


Djentin kills braincells.

veninblazer
February 15th 2019


10191 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

God this shit is so fucking boring, the first track owns but everything after has been so middling and just not engaging at all. Average at best, and "Dumb Blonde" sounds out of place and horrible.

GhostB1rd
February 15th 2019


4497 Comments


Dumb Blonde is not good, correct.

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
February 15th 2019


11152 Comments


Normally I'd insult you in return, but honestly you haven't created enough of an impression for me to do that user GhostB1rd.

veninblazer
February 15th 2019


10191 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

@Ghost: cmon, counterbalance this wacked out average lol

GhostB1rd
February 15th 2019


4497 Comments


You know I don't rate shit.

veninblazer
February 15th 2019


10191 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

oh okay. No way in hell is this Avril's best lmao

LizHanson
February 15th 2019


9 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

^ Why do you think so? Also it predicted to sell 1 million copies per debut week.

GordonRamsay
February 15th 2019


7 Comments


soooo...has anyone who isn't an alt rated this yet

veninblazer
February 15th 2019


10191 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

@Liz: because literally every song after the title track so far has either annoyed the piss out of me or bored the fuck out of me.



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