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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

The acoustic vortex behind Lizzy McAlpine’s ‘Older’

The+acoustic+vortex+behind+Lizzy+McAlpine%E2%80%99s+%E2%80%98Older%E2%80%99
Clara Faulkner

Lizzy McAlpine’s latest album, “Older,” released on April 5, is a mesmerizing collection of ballads intertwined with irresistible sing-along adlibs. This highly anticipated release follows McAlpine’s departure from Berklee College of Music and Boston, where she dedicated herself to songwriting and refining her craft. Her musical journey took a significant turn in August 2020 with the introduction of “Give Me A Minute,” a 13-track album that skillfully blended folk and bedroom-pop influences. 

The album swiftly garnered attention, climbing the ranks on major streaming platforms and solidifying McAlpine’s position as a leading figure among talented songwriters. With “Older,” McAlpine delves deeper into her introspective lyricism and masterful production, delivering an album that captivates from the first note to the last, showcasing her growth and musical maturity. McAlpine’s 2022 album release “Five Seconds Flat” struck a chord with its dark, cinematic essence, providing the perfect canvas for McAlpine’s exceptional storytelling and lyricism. The production skillfully elevated her intimate and soft vocals, creating an immersive experience.

Upon my initial listen, it’s apparent that “Older” takes a more mellow and stripped-down approach than the grandeur of “Five Seconds Flat,” which I hold dear. I prefer music that is more robust and occasionally bustling with activity, and much of this album feels quite minimalist in comparison. The issue lies in the album’s lyricism—it feels surface-level, filled with clichés, and lacking depth. A distinct absence of vision and specificity leaves the listener wanting more.

What resonates with me lyrically are the endings of tracks like “Elevator” and “Vortex”—the gradual swell and culmination of McAlpine’s vocals alongside a mix of various sound sources. These moments are what I typically gravitate toward in music; they provide a sense of depth and complexity that I find captivating.

However, “Older” fails to build upon this promising foundation. Despite my earnest desire for it to excel, the album needs to catch up. The softer tracks suffer from lackluster lyrics that fail to complement McAlpine’s voice when the production doesn’t step in. While intriguing, the more up-tempo pieces seem better suited for a different vocalist style. The few climactic moments are disappointingly underwhelming, lacking the cinematic grandeur that made “Five Seconds Flat” memorable.

Having listened to the album multiple times, I am thoroughly enamored with its lack of lyricism. While there may not be many standout tracks, there’s not a single one that I decided to skip during any playthrough. As someone who profoundly appreciates her music, particularly the soft, slow, and melancholy tones, I undoubtedly fall within the target audience for this album.

The revelation that “You Forced Me To” is essentially a demo adds an exciting layer to the album’s composition. It remains unchanged from its initial creation. However, this tidbit of behind-the-scenes insight does not rescue the album from its feeling of missed potential. “Older” seems to lack the adventurous experimentation that captivated its predecessor.

“Like It Tends To Do” sets a haunting tone right from the start with an eerie guitar sound that seems almost unattainable to replicate. McAlpine’s vocals lead, drawing the listener’s focus to the introspective lyrics subtly emphasized by the minimal backing track. As the vocals fade, ambient sounds emerge, accompanied by gentle piano melodies and exquisite orchestral strings (a standout element for me). This track, one of the more subdued on the album, evokes a sense of peace intertwined with discomfort, softness blended with hints of aggression. It’s a piece that feels relatable yet simultaneously challenging to embrace fully.

“Movie Star” is a nostalgic nod to McAlpine’s earlier works, reminiscent of songs from her debut album, “Give Me a Minute.” The song revolves primarily around the guitar, with doubled vocal tracks and harmonies accentuating key lines, particularly during the repeated phrase “over and over.” Occasional piano notes and reverberating ambiance add depth before the song abruptly ends.

“All Falls Down” deserves a spotlight, particularly for its stunning production, which caught me off guard and sent shivers down my spine. McAlpine effortlessly transforms tracks from serene, contemplative ballads to grand, fully orchestrated pieces featuring drums, horns (the saxophones being a standout highlight), and intricate guitar, bass, and piano layers. These elements weave together seamlessly, adding an undeniable layer of perfection to the album’s sonic landscape.

“Better Than This” is another nostalgic piece related to McAlpine’s earlier works. The track, primarily featuring McAlpine and her guitar, exudes a rawness that amplifies the focus on the heartfelt lyrics. It’s a song that feels like a personal crisis, with the singer baring her emotions as she navigates through self-deprecation and introspection.

Every album has highs and lows, yet this album lacks any actual low points. However, if I were to pick the least favorite (controversial), it would have to be “March.” But let me clarify—I’m confident this track will grow on me immensely. Despite my initial reservations, “March” is one of the album’s most beautifully written, honest, and raw songs. It continues McAlpine’s tradition of dedicating the second-to-last track to her late father, maintaining a poignant and heartfelt tribute.

​​For fans of McAlpine’s signature style and enthusiasts of mellow, reflective music, this album is a delightful addition to her discography. Its consistency and ability to hold the listener’s attention throughout multiple listens make it a worthy addition to any playlist dedicated to soft, slow, and emotive tunes.

While the overall simplicity of this album might not be my usual cup of tea, I appreciate its intimacy. McAlpine’s ability to craft evocative and emotionally raw songs with minimal instrumentation is a testament to her talent. It’s a departure from the more elaborate arrangements of “Five Seconds Flat,” but it allows her storytelling and lyricism to take center stage in a different light

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About the Contributor
Clara Faulkner
Clara Faulkner, Business Manager
Clara Faulkner wears multiple hats at the Beacon, serving as both the Business Director and the Living Arts Editor. Prior to assuming these roles, she demonstrated her expertise as an assistant editor, specializing in living arts—a domain she is deeply passionate about, fueled by her love for pop culture and entertainment. Additionally, Clara served as a writer for the Boston Globe, Boston.com, is a part of NBCUniversal Entertainment Group, and contributed to the music team at Intersect Magazine. In addition to her editorial responsibilities, Clara actively participates in various campus organizations, including SPJ, Associate Entertainment Producer at WEBN-TV, programming director at WECB. fm, and AEPHI. Outside of her writing pursuits, Clara immerses herself in culinary exploration, cinematic enjoyment, and language acquisition, consistently seeking fresh experiences and knowledge.

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