A singer-songwriter’s auspicious debut
Her name may be familiar. The daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, she comes from a lineage of those of the silver screen and has even dabbled in acting herself, most notably, in Stranger Things and a brief appearance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Although she’s made something of a name of herself in histrionics, don’t let it defame her debut full-length LP, Blush, because it is impressive–from an adept or not, and with nepotism or not. This is pretty much also her ‘official’ debut as a musician (she’s released a couple singles and performed them, but nothing as major as an entire album), so one would think that it may be overambitious, like it has a lot to live up to, but people would be woefully wrong. It’s authentic and effortless, as if she’s some sexagenarian that’s been putting out LPs her whole life.
The album opens with these clipped, chirpy guitar notes and faraway steel guitar in “Generous Heart.” It has a veritable singer-songwriter feel to it, it’s just the guitar and her voice singing more-profound-than-your-average-pop-song words. Then, “So Long” follows, wherein the steel guitar is a bit more pronounced, there’s a bit of maraca for ambiance and that reverb-laden vibrato guitar that surely alludes to spaghetti-western. All the while she has a sort of confessional tone she whispers in, and most of the time it seems genuine and well-meaning until the lyrics become kind of lascivious in a couple tracks. For example, in the same track (“So Long”) she speaks about playing with herself. Or, how she personifies herself and another as a river, and expresses an amorous wish to merge, as a river, with another river, or that she “could swallow your river if you opened your mouth” in that same track, “River like You.” And, she admits “I can’t hear you moan,” “I can’t think about the singer with her hand against your thigh” in “Hold the Sun.”
What is unparalleled, past the supposedly sexual ones, are the lyrics. If anything at all, this is a lyric-centric album, which is a signature attribute of a singer-songwriter’s LP. At times, it can be whimsical like in “Animal Enough” she boldly claims no one is “animal” enough for her, or, obviously, when she compares herself to a river; and people can feel that she’s just having fun with it, letting the emotion run through her rather than domineering it into dysfunction. In one song, “Menace,” she reflects on the effect acting has had on her life, and what insight she’s pulled out of it: “it’s dangerous in the show, covertly costful/ and I’ve caught the attention of strangers/ as long as loving lasts you don’t want it here forever” and introspects further, “I want to behave, it’s a small concession/ all my regressions, I don’t understand.” This despondency carries on through the last two songs to lead the album out as “Mirth” evokes the exact opposite feeling of the title and ends on a rather dreary note.
Blush begins in joy and gradually dissolves by the attrition of doubt and longing into self-pity and sorrow. And, although it ends on that note, it never loses its wit. She casually, even insouciantly, drops these truisms into her songs that are totally non-counterfeit, it’s like it just naturally comes out of her. This is a new artist who will be known for her graceful authenticity. She has such a simple sound which may come as a fervently-needed respite from all the over-complex music nowadays that’s too cluttered in its conquest for originality. She tones it back and renews what it is to be a true and sensitive singer-songwriter that seems to function in their own shamanic plane.