An embodiment of working through emotions
In the moments past the sea of pain and trauma, Laura Stevenson created her self-titled album. The Long Island-native had quite a year, one filled with a lot of emotions that she poured into the album. Parts of the album are derived from a sense of deep sadness, some reside more on the side of bittersweet, and some are just plain angry—an emotion that Stevenson tends to push down.
The opener, “State,” is powerful in that way. In its lyrics and sound, the listener can tell that this is a newly dealt with emotion. It’s a rage that simply can’t be dulled down. It builds up with the creeks of strings, as Stevenson sings out, “I’m in a state again, but I stay polite” before the drums set in. It goes immediately from soft to loud and harsh, as if this anger cannot be contained, no matter how hard she tries to keep it down.
There is always a calm after a storm or a quiet moment after a blowout fight. The dull hush that settles after a session of sobbing uncontrollably is what encompasses “Moving Cars.” It’s quiet, almost too quiet. It doesn’t have a drum beat but is instead made up of small hums and a quiet piano tune—a sound that almost sounds like a lullaby. The lyrics read out as a poem—personal and sad. One of the best ones comes towards the end of the song: “and I’m too proud to lift my hand and set it down, down on top of yours as we are staring out.” It’s almost too honest, but still, the listener can tell that these emotions are kept inwards, not to be revealed to the other person.
Songs like “Continental Divide” and “Sandstorm” sound more upbeat and happy, like the clouds breaking apart to reveal the shining sun as the rest of the rainwater finishes dripping down the trees and homes. “Continental Divide” has the feel of a 2000s ballad, and it’s bright, but not overly so. The lyrics seem to talk about the need to protect someone but not being able to. It’s a love letter to someone who is going through something hard: “and what could I do right to keep you weightless for a while, you know, I’d take this all away from you; I’m trying to.” “Sandstorm” starts with the chorus, bringing the listener in close. It has an upbeat sound and a catchy chorus consisting of “lay me down on the unrelenting ground,” but the rest of its lyrics still have a sense of sadness about them with the phrase “hurry up and break my heart” repeated throughout the song.
The album comes to a close with “After Those Who Mean It” and “Children’s National Transfer.” “After Those Who Mean It” leaves the listener with a particular sense of sadness. While Stevenson has made sure to not tell the public what exactly she went through during the creation of this album, this track seems to be the end of the story, with lyrics like “edge away my sweet machine, churn and repeat to keep you here with me.” The ending of the song is full of passion and pain in the way that Stevenson sings, “I watch you wait for me.” “Children’s National Transfer” is the final song on the album, and it describes a brief slice of life, a mundane and real moment, and yet there is something so haunting about the final lyrics, “parliaments and a diet coke.”
Laura Stevenson plays out like a thunderstorm. It’s treacherous at times, angry, passionate and yet there are moments within the storm, when you’re under your porch listening to the thunder roar and the heavy rain hit the pavement, that is so calm. In these moments, it seems like it’s finally okay to breathe. This album feels like a long-awaited peaceful glow after a dark and terrible event, one that still troubles you, but not as much anymore.