In the opening track of “How to Grow Sunflowers Underwater,” Alexandra Lynn asks this question with palpable unease.The Sydney native never shies away from change or taking risks, but hell doesn’t have the same anxiety as coming of age.Like everyone staring into her 20s, Lynn is terrified, unsure of what the future holds, and pained by her past.
Her second album, Alex The Astronaut, reveals the full range of these emotions, and the tumultuous situations that have forced her to confront them over the past two years.But in this grim look at Lynn’s inner catastrophe, there’s a sense of reckoning and catharsis that makes “Sunflower” feel triumphant.
As noted in NME’s five-star review of Lynn’s 2020 full-length debut, “The Theory of Absolute Nothingness,” bitterness has always been one of her strongest artistic strengths.On that album, she firmly explored themes of domestic violence (“I Like to Dance”) and unwanted pregnancy (“Lost”).There’s an equally important topic here: “Sick” chronicles Lynn’s struggle with a loved one who died of a terminal illness, while “South London” paints a paradoxically nostalgic picture as her longing reminiscences of youth turn into musings on trauma .
The album’s early highlight was “Haunted,” both in its soulful poetry and its musical depth.It’s carried by slapped snare drums and smoky Nashville noses, Lynn’s vocal melodies traversing their peaks and valleys.Her voice is strained, and she emphatically expresses her distress as she sings: “I’m sure I’m troubled/I’ve tried breathing and chamomile tea/But bad times keep coming/They keep beating on me.”
These darker songs complement the bubbling indie pop.”Octopus” shines with piercing Casio beats and cute camp sound effects, while Lynn explores the details of an autism diagnosis with equal buoyancy and wit.’Northern Lights’, a song celebrating healing, is accompanied by lively drum machines, Christmas tambourines and icy grand piano chords.It’s also one of the few songs where Lynn embraces her favorite Gang Of Youths influence, nodding “What if the fire goes out?” (from 2017′s “Go Father In Lightness”) with horns ‘s crescendo.
More nods can be heard on “Growing Up,” which slowly burns from ballad to theatrical anthem, just as “Airport” weaves honey indie rock guitars with ethereal strings.The song also hints at Phoebe Bridgers’ atmospheric breadth, even seeing Lynn see her name in a confession she once skipped “Because I’m jealous I didn’t make it” on one of Bridgers’ songs.
Elsewhere on “Sunflower,” Lynn’s acoustic nudge channeled Bob Dylan’s dusty fingerstyle style, and since she co-produced the record with the three members of Ball Park Music, Lynn’s vocals on “Haunted” and “Octopus” “.But while Lynn is happy to wear her influence up her sleeve, “Sunflower” never comes close to a spinoff.It took her five years to build her voice, and here, the cues she takes from her idols only give it extra texture.
Closing the album on the highest note is “Haircut,” a cinematic ode to self-love.It felt like the hard-earned destination Lynn set her sights on nine tracks before she sang “Feel Like Who I Should Be” after cutting her hair.There’s some lingering anxiety: “I’m better, but I don’t always feel safe/I’m trying to be brave,” she admits in a later paragraph, but by declaring she’ll “stand up,” victory She looked around and smiled like I knew how to take it.” After all, she is “a sandcastle I’m building bit by bit,” she notes in the same verse.
With this, Lynn clearly answers her own existential question: This is really growing.But she’ll also be the first to admit that she’s far from figuring out all the complexities of adulthood, so there’s no clear solution to the “Sunflower” story she’s trying to tell — and there shouldn’t be.The album chronicles Lynn’s two whirlwind growth as an artist and as a person, and if one thing is clear, it’s her determination to never stop growing.
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Post time: Jul-25-2022