Laura Stevenson
Laura Stevenson


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale CONTRIBUTOR (53 Reviews)
August 11th, 2021 | 77 replies


Release Date: 08/06/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: No one teaches you to breathe

As a relative novice with Laura Stevenson’s music, I feel like a bit of impostor writing this review, particularly given her status as one of the more beloved artists on this website. Nonetheless, her latest effort deserves a writeup, and this album’s gotten under my skin more than enough for me to have some thoughts to share.

Given my lack of in-depth knowledge of Stevenson’s back catalog, I’m not the one to comment effectively on what direction she’s moving in with this release, or to analyze whether the image she portrays here feels consistent with her previous stylings or represents something new and fresh. What I can say, though, is that this album, while feeling like a grab-bag at times, is reliably enjoyable and leaves the listener plenty of reason to listen over, and over, and over.

I’ve spent a strangely lengthy amount of time thinking about this album’s artwork, and what it signifies for this release. Its mellow color scheme and images of woman, child, and dog within their self-contained little world are reminiscent of a children’s book and suggest a sense of intimacy which reinforces the expectation that a self-titled release often evokes, implying that this is Laura Stevenson going for an unvarnished and personal project. Perhaps the reason I’ve spent so much brain activity on this subject is that I’m not quite sure that ends up being the case. While this is undoubtedly an emotional record frequently dealing with subjects like traumatic experiences and death, the lyrics are usually cryptic and more adorned then expected.

Laura Stevenson has a curious album structure, beginning with (by far) the most raucous song, “State”, followed by a series of mostly more drawn-out tunes, and finishing with a set of largely shorter and mainly sedate tracks. The second song, “Don’t Think About Me” sets the tone for the album’s default setting with its dreamier melodicism following the viciously aggressive chorus of the opener, while “Sandstorm” injects a needed bundle of energy into the more reserved second half. Every single song has distinctive characteristics and functions well on its own, but it’s easy to argue that a rearrangement of the track list to more evenly distribute the longer and shorter and the mellower and harder-rocking songs throughout the runtime would create a more complete listening experience. That said, despite its oddness this is a damn listenable album as is.

Laura Stevenson is a largely subtle work, both musically and lyrically. If one reads along with the lyrics while listening, there are a ton of potent lines, but many will pass you by without notice otherwise, while the melodies are easy-going and restrained. Sonically, besides the opener the album adheres to lighter shades of music, from the country-rock leanings of “Continental Divide” (great, great song) to the folky strumming of “Blue Sky, Bad News” (what a title) to the piano balladry of “Mary”. The record’s last two tracks are both short and quite stripped-down, but are also lyrical goldmines which leave the listener on a touching note.

In the end, this is an album I find a bit hard to assess. For one thing, I spent a good share of this review critiquing its flow and structure. For another, singer-songwriter music along these lines is usually a style in which I find it easy to pick out individual songs as personal favorites, and honestly this album doesn’t really evoke that response. While listening to something else, none of the songs here summon me to randomly give them a jam. That said, when spinning this it is a pretty heavenly record from start to finish, and more often than not I’ve hit the replay button as soon as the album ends. Final thoughts, I guess: the music’s good, anything else is overthinking it.



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user ratings (116)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
August 11th 2021


2904 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Had a bit of a tough time writing this review, but finally managed to put it together. Feels a bit more casual and easy-going than most of my reviews, but hopefully it works ok!

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
August 11th 2021


14765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wish there were more songs like State on this but great album and great review!

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
August 11th 2021


2904 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks YoYo!



State isn't my favorite here, but it is interesting how much it sticks out compared to everything else on here

Divaman
August 11th 2021


12845 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I liked the review, and I look forward to checking out the album.

Digging: As December Falls - Happier.

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
August 11th 2021


14765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Continental Divide is my fav here, it's absolutely stunning. State is definitely the oddball song here, and the fact that it opens the album is such an interesting choice

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
August 11th 2021


2904 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks @Divaman!



YoYo, Continental Divide is a good choice, definitely a contender for me as well. Agree that the first song doesn't fit with the rest, kinda an iffy decision but the album works, maybe in spite of that

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2021


58170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

best new music ladies and germs

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Slex
August 12th 2021


12250 Comments


if we're talking about songs that stick out what in the literal actual love of god fuck is Sandstorm doing lmao

Digging: Magdalena Bay - Mercurial World

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
August 12th 2021


14765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^ being a Darude cover

Slex
August 12th 2021


12250 Comments


probably the only possible way it could kneecap the sequencing even more

Purpl3Spartan
August 12th 2021


1459 Comments


This didn’t do much for me the first time around, but perhaps I should give it another spin

Digging: Bilmuri - 400LB BACK SQUAT

Gyromania
August 12th 2021


33095 Comments


Was not into wheel whatsoever, nor the one after. The great freeze was enjoyable tho so I might check this

Lucman
August 12th 2021


5346 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This has settled its place as my fourth fav Stevenson, behind Wheel, Sit, and Freeze. But I have to throw my cents into "Moving Cars" as one of her greatest songs to date.

Digging: Joanna Newsom - Ys

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2021


41693 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This thing's second half drags its damn heels. Good thing the first is pretty great

Digging: Teenage Jesus and the Jerks - Teenage Jesus and the Jerks

Storm In A Teacup
August 12th 2021


35149 Comments


back in the old days of sputnik this would be a moderator conversation with morrisey, Dave De Sylvia, Jom going on about laura stevenson.

Storm In A Teacup
August 12th 2021


35149 Comments


wait no this is the wrong woman.

fogza
August 12th 2021


3006 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's better than her older stuff but I was a bit disappointed after The Big Freeze was such a revelation

Digging: Lo Moon - Lo Moon

Pon
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2021


5148 Comments


She's at her best when she balances those upbeat, life-affirming segments with the more pensive ones. This one leans a bit too heavily on the latter but I still enjoyed it.

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
August 12th 2021


9113 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

^ same basically

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Pikazilla
August 12th 2021


19123 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I hated the big sneeze, this one rules though



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