Every generation has a few defining albums. Nirvana’s Nevermind and In Utero represented the angst of teenagers and college students in the early ’90s. The Velvet Underground & Nico’s eponymous LP was arguably the pinnacle of the liberation revolution that swelled across the Western world and in music. Spice by The Spice Girls was more than just a catchy pop album; it redefined feminism and how “girl power” was presented within the mainstream. As we now focus on 2017, what album will be the emblem of today’s generation? We’re not talking about protest albums (and there are plenty of great ones already in 2017), but compilations that reflect the nervousness many young people have about the present and future and their place in the world. Fazerdaze‘s debut, Morningside, could be the answer.
Filled with 10 guitar-pop songs, Morningside is much more than just scintillating ear candy. Each song is layered with emotional depth, as frontwoman and project mastermind Amelia Murray reveals a wide range of feelings – anxiety, trepidation, hope, and relief. The album’s opener, “Last to Sleep”, unveils all these feelings. With a stirring guitar line and her captivating vocals, Murray expresses her fears of what is to come. A nervous energy can be heard in her voice as she tries to convince herself that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
It is the one-two punch of “Lucky Girl” and “Misread” where the album takes off. The former is a highly infectious, jangly pop tune that will stick in your head for days. Murray’s sweet vocals, meanwhile, are transfixing, but her story is one of nervousness in getting close to someone and possibly losing her. The reverb picks up on “Misread”, giving the song an airy, gritty pop vibe à la Veronica Falls. The approach provides the perfect canvas to Murray’s confusion with a friend’s double-sided personality. “I hate the way you talk about yourself as if you’re someone else”, Murray says. She later adds, “I hate the way you try to hide the things you want to say.”
“Jennifer”, one of Fazerdaze’s early tracks, has a touch of the ’70s with its fleeting, bedroom-pop intimacy. It’s a beautiful song that feels like a distant memory or a recollection of a time when everything was right in the world. A similar feeling of loneliness is echoed in the distortion-filled “Friends”, which has a Waxahatchee edginess and cleverness in the lyrics. Things get a bit more melancholic on the psych-pop tune “Half-Figured”. The song is Murray at her most vulnerable, as she openly admits she has little idea what she wants to do and what the future holds. It is the voice of a woman who feels her options are limited despite her youth and talent – a feeling many people share in today’s increasingly commercialized and polarized world.
Murray and her band mates are at their best when they are able to camouflage their feelings behind the wall of gorgeous. “Little Uneasy”, for instance, is a summery, vibrant song that is made for long road trips and cruising along beach-side boardwalks. However, there is apprehension in Murray’s voice as she reveals two people’s fears of opening themselves to another. The groovy and infectious “Take It Slow” is a song right out of a coming-of-age movie. “I don’t know if I’m ready”, Murray proclaims early on, as if she’s stepping foot outside her parents’ home for the first time and entering the home of another.
And maybe the 24-year-old Wellington-born, Auckland-based artist isn’t quite ready to spread her wings. However with Morningside, she and her band of three brothers have crafted an album that is delicious on the ears, warm on the heart, and thought-provoking on the mind. It is therefore, an album not just for a generation still trying to find their way, but for anyone who is still seeking answers. It’s an album that defines many of the lives lived and those to come.
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