Life is nothing if not endlessly annoying. That is without even getting into the bigger issues of an overwhelmingly malfunctioning society. I’m talking about the stress, the loneliness, the yearning, the tedious formalities of a relationship. Alex Lahey’s new album, I Love You Like a Brother, is gloriously tied up in all these annoyances of the flesh. Lahey has crafted a crunchy rock record about that pimple on your nose in your late 20s, that text left hanging for three days, that tugging at your clothes awkwardness, that ‘afraid to look at my bank account’ feeling. Lahey has made a record for the worst within us, and it’s awesome and powerful and liberating.
Lahey is Australian and has been quoted as saying, “I’m just some random from Melbourne.” That may have been true just a little over a year ago, but not so much anymore. Her single in 2016, “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me”, exposed her to the world as something special, a sardonic rocker with a knack for placing old topics in new formations. It’s a song about a crappy relationship, and it’s about the let down from it. More importantly, though, it’s about realizing the other’s hang-ups and owning them instead of moaning about them. In addition to being lyrically propulsive, the music just plain rocks. It’s a loser’s anthem that places the power right where it has always belonged, with the loser. The EP that song came from, B-Grade University expanded on that concept as well as offered one lovely love song, “Wes Anderson”.
I Love You Like a Brother is her full-length debut, and it doesn’t change too much, but it does dig deeper into the psyche of the nervous 20-something. Whereas B-Grade University offered a few slacker rhythms and a few songs lacking in anxiety, I Love You Like a Brother offers little respite. Even the songs that seem on the top to be about the good things in life include little asides that expose the nuances of it all.
In “Everyday’s the Weekend”, a song basically about that explosive and positive period in an early relationship, asks the off-screen lover, “Are you leaving me or have you just forgot?” and instantly follows it up by claiming, “That’s ok. We should ride this wave to shore.” We’ve all been there, and it’s a mixed bag of feelings, but Lahey twists it into a fist-pumper. That’s her skill.
“Everyday’s the Weekend” is the opening track, and the album doesn’t slow down until the closing track, “There’s No Money”, a brooding downtempo song about the pleasures of being broke. Yeah, I said that right: the pleasures of being broke. As mentioned earlier, Lahey has a knack for turning the negatives on their head. It’s nearly blissful as she states, “Time moves slowly when there’s no money, and I have nothing to lose.”
Earlier in the review, the word liberating was used, and rightfully so. With such a powerful album about the bummers in life, Lahey liberates us from the expectations of a petty society. Can’t score a partner? Well, that’s their loss. Short on money? Well, that gives more time for chilling on your own. Lahey’s right, and we’re the better off for it.
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