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KZSC Librarian Webster Underdressed At The Symphony Album Stream 1
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Dare I say this album is genius?

This was my exact response after listening to Faye Webster’s new album, “Underdressed at the Symphony,” for the third time.

The first couple singles to come out–”But Not Kiss,” “Lifetime,” and “Lego Ring”–left me curious and honestly concerned for the rest of the release. But in order to review this right, I need to start at the beginning…

It all started on June 20, 2023. The LA sun was blazing in through my car window, I felt dirty and sweaty from my hosting shift at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and it was the day after my ex’s birthday. Long story short, I needed a win. A sign from God. And then… God herself spoke via a Spotify notification announcing her new single.

The lingering orchestral track and powerful build up of “But Not Kiss” was a lot to take in as an exhausted eighteen year old girl sitting in a Walmart parking lot on her thirty minute break. I stared catatonically at the busy street ahead of me as nostalgia consumed me, occupying my full attention for the song’s entirety. As a single, it was great. But as the precursor to an album, it made me nervous. I felt it was more poppy than her usual, country/folk-pop style, which is not inherently bad of course… but I have a hard time with change. I want my favorite artists to be consistent, something I can count on to return to when I’m feeling a certain type of way–or as Faye sings in track eight, ”It’s kind of nice to have familiarity / A sweet escape for whenever I need.” 

Music is like life: good things don’t last forever. But that doesn’t mean new good things can’t be created.

Soon after “But Not Kiss,” “Lifetime” was released. I don’t remember my first time listening to this song as well because the song itself didn’t grasp my attention as much. I understood the energy she was going for and it felt similar to her older music. That’s what I wanted, wasn’t it? But something was missing. I was at a crossroads, I was questioning all that I thought I knew. “Lifetime” bored me and I was starting to think I was bored with the general sound of this album so far as a whole. Blasphemy! I know. But what was I supposed to think? Looking back, it seems as if she released these songs first as a deception. Whether that is true or not, we may never know. Regardless of her intention, it worked–I let my guard down, I lost faith… But Faye didn’t lose faith in me.

“Lego Ring.” This is when everything changed. What was this? Lil Yachty and Faye releasing a song and hanging out on Instagram together? Autotune? I have to admit, the confusion I felt in the moment overpowered my senses, so I ignored this song. I couldn’t make any assessments or assumptions quite yet. Then, March 1st happens. All the songs are released and everything finally makes sense… after a few listens. On the first listen-through, I was still resistant to change and struggling to accept her experimentation with electronic elements. On the second listen-through, I realized so many of the qualities that we all love about Faye’s music were still there underneath it all: her quirky, personal lyrics and folky instrumentals. The third listen-through though was when it all clicked.

“Dare I say, this album is genius??”

I texted my friends in an almost frenzy. I had reached the divine, guided by Faye, and I understood it all–how all the pieces fit together. Those qualities we love were not just underneath all the new qualities, these were the new qualities. I understood my role finally as I wandered through the long and winding path home. I was a profit, put here to pass on the word of Faye.

The first track “Thinking About You” (in which she sings the phrase “thinking about you” a total of 28 times) tells us that this is a post-breakup album. This song is classic Faye with its groovy electric guitar and a spotlight on her moody vocals. “But Not Kiss” keeps the theme going with lyrics such as “we’re meant to be, but not yet” and “but I’m here when you need, I always help.” Something remains unfinished between Faye and her other. She knows it’s over for now, but not forever.

“Wanna Quit All the Time” refers to many things. She says she quit drinking because it reminds her of her ex. She wants to quit being self-conscious physically and self-destructive emotionally. But most of all, this references her frequent desire to quit the music business. “It’s the attention that freaks me out.” She sneakily slips this lyric in, but that’s not to diminish its importance. It is merely the beginning of a new theme that emerges throughout the rest of the album musically and lyrically.

We are thrown full force into this new theme with the next track, “Lego Ring.” This is autotune’s first appearance in the album and it also demonstrates the first overall variation from her usual musical style, though her lyrical style remains the same–witty and interpersonal as always. The autotune continues with “Feeling Good Today,” in which Faye again expresses a discomfort around fame with the lyric, “My neighbors know [my dog’s] name / Thought that was weird but I’m over it.” Her heavier use of electronic elements such as autotune and synthesizers contribute to her lyrical expression of wanting to be out of the spotlight that making music has put her in. Autotune is an artistic choice that allows Faye to shift the focus away from her physical and metaphorical voice, whilst still being able to maintain her intimate lyrical style. 

“He Loves Me Yeah!” is the energy peak of the album. The electronic elements continue with a backing synth as she sings of a semi-dysfunctional relationship, but which she deems perfect. The short, chaotic piano and guitar solos at the end mirror the chaos of the relationship she describes. I love this song. However, “ebay Purchase History” might be my favorite song on the album. The combination of the smooth guitar, the lulling jaw harp, and her witty words perfectly scratches my music itch. The song exaggerates her discomfort for attention by teasing the listeners to look at her eBay purchase history to learn more about her. “I’ll keep my anonymity hid / I just learned that word I thought that I’d use it.” 

Title track “Underdressed at the Symphony” is the most intimate, both musically and lyrically, that Faye gets on this album. For a moment, we return to familiarity. “I’m wearing no clothes, I’m not the silhouette you know.” Its romance is reminiscent of “Jonny” with her lingering question and answer: “Are you doing all the same things? I doubt it.” The final track “Tttttime” is also reminiscent of “Jonny” when she sings “I’m alone, but what’s new.” She’s still the same Faye we all know and love, she’s just trying out some new musical techniques and she’s tired of all the attention. She sings, “I get lost in a song,” and in this one she does. Over the course of the track, her voice is more and more drowned out by the flute that mimics her vocal melody in the chorus, connecting back to her desire to not be in the spotlight. 

This album is Faye’s artistic attempt at escape without actually escaping the cause of her discomfort. Faye is God, and that’s her problem.