One of the 2016’s EPs that we regretfully did not cover was Alex Lahey‘s debut EP, B-Grade University. Fortunately, awesome label Dead Oceans announced they had signed the twenty-something, Melbourne resident and were re-releasing the EP for North American audiences. As such, we are given a chance to make amends for our oversight.
A favorite of the fantastic Aussie station Triple-J, Lahey first caught our ear nearly a year ago when she shared “Let’s Go Out”. The pop-rock anthem and witty lyricism reminded us of Liz Phair and Courtney Barnett played to the sonic escapades of Bully. It was a bold and unapologetic song about friendship, love, pain, and unbridled passion. Yes, it sounds like a coming-of-age movie, which demonstrates Lahey’s lyrical prowess and ability to cram a full story into three minutes and eleven seconds.
The rest of the EP is filled with such stories, specifically following the adventures and exploits of a young, even pretentious adult. B-Grade University, as such, is whimsical yet honest, fun but immensely real, and full of heart and soul. The song that best reflects all these traits is the record’s opener, “Ivy League”. This groovy tune has Lahey tackling the hierarchy of educational institutions and the value (or lack of) placed on certain degrees. Anyone who has graduated with an Arts degree (like many of us here) will fully emphasize with Lahey’s feelings.
“You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me” is the song that put Lahey on the Australian map and made Pitchfork recognize her. Finishing 97th on Triple J’s Hottest 100 Songs of 2016, this buzz saw of a single is straight out of the ’90s. It is anthemic, infectious, and a song made for dancing. And just like the music of that era, Lahey delivers a song for every broken heart. Instead of lamenting on what has happened, she fights back and calls out her former lover. There is fury in her voice, further adding fuel to the song’s rambunctious intensity. The summery “L-L-L-Leave Me Alone” could be side two to “You Don’t Think…” Beneath the surf-rock, mai tai-sipping vibe, Lahey asks her ex to get lost and stop “think(ing) you’ve got a monopoly”.
Lahey turns the coming-of-age song on its head with the fun and clever “Wes Anderson”. The single is right from one of the acclaimed director’s films (specifically, visions of Ritchie Tenenbaum’s infatuation with his adopted sister Margot will likely flash in your head). The song, though, is also for any romantic who dreams of that memorable night or for that one person to walk through the door and into their lives.
While the EP first dropped in September 2016, we are immensely grateful that Alex Lahey has re-emerged and enter our living rooms. With B-Grade University, Lahey has delivered a fantastic EP that could be Gen Y’s and Gen Z’s equivalent to Crowded House’s self-titled album. It’s a coming-of-age record for a new generation, but one that even old music nuts like us can truly appreciate.
B-Grade University is out now via Dead Oceans. Pick it up on Lahey’s Bandcamp page.
Lahey will be supporting Tegan and Sara during their UK-leg of their worldwide tour in February. She will also have a headlining show in London on February 20th. She will traverse the US in March, including stopping at SXSW. See tour dates here.
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