Alex Lahey has a lot to say, and she’s wasting little time sharing her stories with us. Since breaking out in Australia as a Triple J Unearthed find with “Air Mail” in 2015 and the viral hit, “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me” in early 2016, the Melbourne-based artist has emerged as the country’s next big music sensation. Last year she was signed by American super-indie label Dead Oceans (home to Slowdive, Destroyer, The Tallest Man on Earth, Mitski, and Kevin Morby) and released her excellent debut EP, B-Grade University, this past January. The record was witty, fun, and addictive, demonstrating Lahey’s ability to craft songs that appeal to people of all ages.
Less than eight months later, she’s back with 10 more stories on her first full-length, I Love You Like A Brother. Taken together, they read like a Hollywood screenplay for the next young adult movie. Think Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, and Singles put together but modernized for today’s daydreamers, and that is what the LP is. Like those movies, the album begins with a bang with the energetic “Every Day’s the Weekend”. Despite the upbeat nature of the song, Lahey laments the dissolution of an affair. Her lyrics reveal a young woman whose heart has been broken but possibly for the better.
There is, however, the solace of home, which is where Lahey heads to on the equally rambunctious “I Love You Like A Brother”. A ’70s jukebox pop vibe emanates from this song, as she speaks about her and her sibling’s differences. This song isn’t an attack, but rather it is a reconciliation of sort.
Lahey gets simultaneously playful and sentimental on the jittery pop-rock tune, “Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder”, which recalls a loved one moving away. At the same time, it is an ode to the business-driven Western Australian city, which people either love or hate. Taking a page from fellow Aussie stars Gang of Youths’ playbook, “I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself” develops into a rollicking, let-yourself-go track. Lahey’s songwriting is impeccable, and she recounts the destructive behavior that comes with depression, anxiety, and the emotional stress of love.
“I haven’t been taking care of myself
I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be in good health
I’ve gained weight and I drink too much
Maybe that’s why you don’t love me as much
I need to start taking care of myself.”
The album momentarily slows down with the thoughtful “Backpack”, which a tribute to those seeking meaning in their lives. Its ending is memorable. In this case, Lahey dedicates the song to a friend, who aimlessly wanders the globe in search of finding himself. The push and pull of love is the focus of “Awkward Exchange” and “Let’s Call It A Day”, and both are like a soap opera episode condensed into four crunchy minutes. Like many love affairs and great coming-of-age movies, there is always one yearning to rekindle the magic; this is heard on the shimmering ballad “I Want U”.
Lahey unleashes her rock side on “Lotto in Reverse”. The sultry, gritty opening grabs your attention immediately before it turns into a sweltering number. Her songwriting once again has you doing double takes as she sings of a one-sided (and likely abusive) relationship. Her depiction of a woman’s internal struggle is frighteningly poignant and real.
“Am I scared of losing you or am I scared to be alone?
Either way you pretty much can’t treat me any worse
I went on to take a gamble and won the lotto in reverse.”
The album ends with “There’s No Money”, the album’s most introspective track. Lahey opens up much more as she offers a glimpse into her family’s life. The little vignettes in the song explain why Lahey has been relentlessly writing songs and touring. She’s not merely trying to build on her sudden success; music is her release. It is her escape from the shocks in her two-plus decades on this planet. It is also her therapy, and she has trusted us to be her therapists. We don’t need to say a word because Lahey shares everything. While she reveals her weaknesses, there is immense strength in what she has to say. And there is also a glimmer of hope that “some random from Melbourne” can overcome disappointment to become Australia’s next big thing.
Lahey is currently touring across Australia. She heads off to Europe and North America the end of October, completing her tour in Seattle on December 13th. Dates and information are available here.
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