Carousels, Cycles, and Getting 'Older': Tackling growth in Lizzy McAlpine’s new album - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Lower Merion native Lizzy McAlpine is breaking away from “ceilings” and the electronics of Five Seconds Flat to an organic sound filled with piano, guitar, and swelling vocals. Her newest album, Older, dropped on Friday and tracks the duration and aftermath of an on-and-off college relationship. Older is refreshingly real – the acoustics marry with McAlpine’s brutally honest lyrics to create something that feels melancholy but not melodramatic.

“The Elevator” opens the album with a short, cautiously hopeful prologue filled starting with a simple melody on piano that expands into swelling vocals, strings, and drums. “I hope we can make it,” McAlpine sings. “I hope that I’m right.”

“Come Down Soon,” the second track on the album, is as pure a sound as you can get in the modern mixing world. It’s one live take, recorded with musicians hand-picked by McAlpine. According to a recent Teen Vogue interview, McAlpine found the band playing at a Ryan Beatty show after recording a chunk of the album. McAlpine, then feeling a disconnect from what she had recorded, re-recorded the album with the new players within a month and is set to tour with them beginning in mid-April.

“Like It Tends To Do” is quiet, with an acoustic guitar intro followed by a delicate piano. Her voice, sometimes at almost a whisper, wraps around the melody. “I’ve been standing in the same room / People enter one by one / I’ve stopped hoping they were you.” Like, ARE YOU KIDDING. Though it’s clear that McAlpine is a classically trained singer-songwriter, her songs tend to lack a clearly-defined structure.

“I tend to write choruses without really thinking about the fact that they’re choruses,” said McAlpine in a recent Genius video. “I don’t really stick to the normal song structures, I just kind of write… [Older was] purely based on instinct and playing with other people who were passionate about the music and just feeling that moment in the room.”

One song with a more traditional structure is “All Falls Down,” an almost-jazzy departure from the rest of the album. Though the lyrics are melancholy, the tune itself is upbeat, with trumpets enveloping McAlpine’s voice for the chorus.

Lizzy McAlpine - I Guess

Somewhere between “I Guess” and “Drunk, Running” the album takes a more reflective turn. The majority of these songs were written in the midst of her final college breakup, and the lyrics reflect that. In “Broken Glass,” a steady drumbeat pulses behind McAlpine as she wonders, “You know I’ve been hurt / Did I do it worse to you?”

As with her previous two albums, the 13th track, “March,” is dedicated to her father, who passed away in March 2020.

When the album’s title track “Older” dropped last month, I was expecting it to be either at the beginning or the end of the album, due to the refrain “I wish I knew what the end is.” It’s the 11th of 14 tracks, and by this time, we can tell that McAlpine is drained from the “carousel ride” of her previous relationships. The first part of the song was written in her previous relationship, and the second verse after. No matter the subject, the song hammers home how exhausting it can be to live and watch the world change and be altered with and by it.

McAlpine said that “[Older] is really like the beginning of a new era for me. That word sounds, like, really corny, but it’s a new stage of my career… I’m doing things on my terms. And I also hope that people tell their loved ones that they love them.”

The final song on the album, “Vortex,” is also its longest. At almost six minutes, McAlpine has the chance to take us through all of her reflections on her time with her college boyfriend. It begins as a simple ballad on piano and swells into something much more at the bridge, with electric guitar, a sitar, and drums. McAlpine has made it clear in this album that she’s mastered the bridge, and her lyrics are fantastic, but there’s a repetitiveness to the album which leads one to impulsively check which song in the album they’re listening to.

But there’s a moment of silence at the end of the album – for about fifteen seconds (otherwise known as a Gen Z minute), we ourselves can mourn the loss that comes with getting older. It’s just this, she seems to say. We can only grow from here.

“I know that the right people will get the new album, but some people are gonna be disappointed because it doesn’t sound like Five Seconds Flat,” McAlpine said to Teen Vogue. “This music is the most me that I’ve ever sounded, and I just want to feel understood.”

Lizzy McAlpine will be at The Met on June 24th and 25th. Full tour details and tickets available at her website; listen to Older below.

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