Kate Nash’s second self-released album and fourth overall, Yesterday Was Forever took a lot of perseverance and dedication in its making, including a Kickstarter campaign. Those attributes make this a worthy record, and Nash’s introspective lyrics explore her struggles and experiences openly across the album’s collected tracks. Leading up to the album’s release, Nash admitted the personal connections explored in the album, prominently highlighted by its frankness about mental health, morbidity, and sheer existence. Nash’s pop sensibilities soften the rougher edges to the deeply personal lyrics, while simultaneously documenting the varied realities of day to day interactions and larger questions about life and death.
Yesterday Was Forever is simply summed up by Nash’s self-identification as contradictory, as the pop elements seemingly don’t sync with the frank and at times darker lyrics. Yet, they generally work well together, an attribute Nash has enjoyed from her debut Made of Bricks in 2008 through her first self-released album, Girl Talk in 2013. The openness also carries from her career, but the distinction for this album is the success she wields in weaving together of danceable songs with lyrics about depression, anxiety, and even obsession. Tracks like “Call Me”, “Take Away”, “Hate You”, and “Drink About You”, incorporate those disparate elements perfectly, while a track like “Body Heat” directly examines the anxieties of modern relationships.
Deep listening to the lyrics is required to hear the dynamic elements at work on the album, and this aspect lends to a problematic experience. Nash sings about confrontational and extremely worthy issues she has experienced and worked to overcome, yet the backdrop of a pop and dance-tinged album at times subverts that component. “Karaoke Kiss” illustrates this duality well, Nash sings about drinking too much, and it leads to an intimate interaction designed as necessary to create a feeling. The resulting anxieties from either a one-night stand or initiated relationship emerge, but the fun atmosphere generated by the music and style on the track belies the issues in the frank lyrics. It doesn’t help that the lyrics are mixed on top, often slightly louder than the music, yet overshadowed by the bass and tone of the track overall. Nash sings of “feeling so dark”, but the track is conversely bright. Too contradictory.
Nash’s self-focus in the lyrics emerges most prominently on “Musical Theatre”, a track that tackles her depression and self-destruction. The music is interestingly subdued far behind her vocals, and the resilience demonstrated by her singing references real-life struggles Nash offers in interviews promoting the album. Within “Musical Theatre” she recounts the breaking down and offers a personal method of rebounding and recovering, with the music building in sound behind this transition.
There is a range of styles explored across Yesterday Was Forever, too. In the latter half of the album, the darker lyrics in early tracks are more conceptually realized by contemporary dynamic and musical shifts. The mix in “California Poppies” blends similarly personal lyrics, sung with a screech at times and softly in the refrains, with music that purposefully complements those efforts before the song entirely fades, but loudly rather than softly.
After an acoustic guitar-backed track taking apart a relationship in “Always Shining”, Nash’s lyrics finally tell herself and us that everything will be alright on “Today”. The honesty of the album achieves its most honest admissions in “Today”, as Nash comforts herself and by extension, anyone listening to that has experienced similar fears or faults. The song tackles body image, self-defeat and destruction, and longing for more when everything seems to be falling in on her/you. It is a song about getting up and going on, despite those feelings, and again the lyrics drive the song and the music complements nicely.
Except for “My Little Alien”, a quirky song about the effects of love and others entering your existence, the second half of the album is stronger than the first. Not that “My Little Alien” is a bad track, it is just an oddity alongside better composed, arranged, and mixed tracks like “Twisted Up” and the album’s best track, closer “To the Music I Belong”.
“To the Music I Belong” admits the reality Kate Nash intended by the album and her explorative lyrics about mental health and personal connections: that music, whether playing or listening, comforts and drives experiences in modern existence. Nash is a performer so her “belonging” to music is a twisted admission of the necessities of making music for income, as well as necessary to live and survive: “Music is the only one / Music is by my side / Music will never leave / To the music, hold on / Music is the only one / All the music I own.” Nash’s generosity in admitting her fears coalesces in this track, and it best sums up the successes and relevance of Yesterday Was Forever.
The album documents struggle, immediately by its attempt at blending day to day concerns through introspective lyrics with strong music that opines for fun and escape. Nash calls herself and this approach contradictory, and maybe that’s the best way to describe this album, but that carries a semblance of dismissing the issues she sings through and the realities she and her fans, listeners, and others experience all too often.