Review Summary: Shattering illusions of comfort
While it’s hardly a typical summer album, Forever Blue
couldn’t have come at a better time than one in which the vulnerability of all that encompasses life is continuously stressed. A.A. Williams’ debut album is a haunting affair, thriving off passion and impeccable songwriting rather than immediacy. It’s a masterpiece that refuses to let go, in spite of its relatively subdued nature. Simultaneously, however, the album is impressively wide in scope, with each second being devoted to maintaining a gorgeously bleak atmosphere.
’s primary strength can be found in its incredibly touching nature. The album frequently crafts the illusion of intimacy, before shattering it into a thousand blindingly beautiful pieces. The first half of ‘Melt’ primarily relies on the strength of Williams’ voice; something the entire album could easily have gotten away with. Her voice is as fragile as it is confident; bound to break at any point yet seemingly fully at peace with this. Yet, the back half of the aforementioned track sees the intensity increase with the singer holding on for one more, climactic chorus while guitars and drums start crumbling. As Williams quietly sings ’You just couldn’t let me be’
, the instruments fully crash as the song disintegrates… before it fades into the next one.
Similarly, opener ‘All I Asked For (Was to End it All)’ showcases Forever Blue
’s lyrical strength, and one does not have to look any further than the title. Williams’ words are blunt, wasting as little space as the music, subsequently making for its heartbreaking nature. Much like her voice, there is a certain duality to the artist’s lyricism. Many of her regrets and issues are brilliantly bare bones, yet there is a constantly implied doubt. Right before the chorus repeats the song title, ‘All I Asked For (Was to End it All)’ states that: ’I could see it all / I could not be wrong’
. It’s oddly comforting. With depression being one of the absolute worst things to see happening to the ones you love most, it is that implied slither of doubt that has the ability to save lives; the understanding that the past tense of the song title could one day be realised.
On ‘Fearless’, this somewhat devastating aspect is personified by Johannes Persson’s guest spot. The harsh vocals by the Cult of Luna singer provide an entirely new dimension to Forever Blue
, not adding aggression as much as it displays the incredible fragility of the album. Moreover, the versatility of Williams’ songwriting, something that has the ability to have gone unnoticed previously, is incredibly clear here. While the screams are in stark contrast with the majority of the record, they feel completely at home. Whether it’s the subtle acoustic touch in ‘Glimmer’, the quiet pianos that open Forever Blue
or ‘Love and Pain’s ability to fully realise the potential of a chorus solely consisting of vaguely distinct wails, every strum, every stroke and every single note makes perfect sense.
The closing track, ‘I’m Fine’, provides an incredible sense of closure. Juxtaposing the opening cut’s title, the song retains its intimacy throughout. While a sense of ambiguity is still present as Williams indicates that she’s ’so tired of explaining that I’m fine’
, the violins accompanying her trembling voice are astonishingly comforting. This makes the final lyrics ‘I always try to find a place with you’
feel unusually climactic, especially since the song ends on a glimmer rather than an explosion. In this case, Forever Blue
’s final glimmer is the sound of birds chirping, before the sound of silence is all that is left.