ALBUM REVIEW: gabrielle aplin's first album in four years, "dear happy"
The first release from indie goddess Gabrielle Aplin since 2016, Dear Happy “features some of Gabrielle’s most personal lyrical moments alongside a breadth of music and influences not yet heard from her before." It's my personal theory that every January needs an anthemic release from an unbeatable female artist (last year's was Maggie Roger's Heard It In A Past Life) and Dear Happy is 2020's (and you should also listen to The Big Moon's Walking Like We Do). I remember watching Aplin's covers on YouTube years ago (I especially loved her and Bastille's cover of Dreams by Fleetwood Mac), and I'm in awe of all the ways she's grown as a human and as a songwriter.
“I’m so excited to release Dear Happy into the world,” Aplin said in an interview a few months ago. “It’s been a few years in the works as I figured out what I wanted to say with my third album. Without knowing it at the time, the start of this album coincided with the moment I made a definitive decision to start to unravel and rewire my brain. ‘Dear Happy’ subsequently became a documentation of this journey to myself. I wanted to use writing as a way of understanding...Sonically I wanted to capture these moments and experiences in a positive light. I want to listen back to these songs in five years and hear happiness and positivity. It’s an album about saying ‘fuck it!” to your worries and insecurities. Or maybe it’s an album that invites your worries and insecurities to sit with you. It’s an album about saying ‘no’. It’s an album about saying ‘YES’. It’s an album that is a past, present and future letter to myself."
“Until the Sun Comes Up” is an upbeat opening track, an anthem about leaving the day behind and throwing yourself wholeheartedly into the night, to lose yourself with someone you feel so completely comfortable with that you forget everything that troubles you. It goes straight into "Invisible," about feeling like you have no control over what's going sour in your relationship; everything is bothering her, but she can't tell her partner, and she feels like she's completely invisible to him. Dear Happy is already proving to be even more transparent and vulnerable than her previous releases.
"Just One Of Those Days" is about just what it says - the days you have when you feel like nothing is going right, and there's nothing that you can do to change it. When everything in your life feels irreversibly terrible. Everyone has days like this, when they feel like they've chosen the wrong path, and they'll never figure out what it is they're meant to be doing in this world. I have a hyperactive imagination, and sometimes I can hone it, use it for good, but most of the time I'm stuck thinking about all of the possibilities, all of the things I could be, all of the people I've loved and lost, and what my life would be like if I had or hadn't done certain things. This song is one I really needed to hear, and will absolutely come back to it when I need to be reminded that I'm not the only one who feels this way.
"Kintsugi" was the one of the lead singles off the album, and I genuinely feel like it sums up the tone of the album very well: electronic, hyperactive beats with introspective and candid lyrics. Kintsugi is "the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique." I've seen this concept used as a metaphor in fiction and poetry, but never in a song, and I love it. "Strange" is my one of my favorite tracks on the album; I can see myself dancing around my kitchen in the early morning light before work as I get ready. It's about surprising yourself, realizing that the things you were afraid of before don't frighten you anymore. And it has cowbell! My favorite!
"My Mistake" is a classic Aplin ballad. It's an admission of guilt, almost, that despite the fact that how she feels is bad, she doesn't do anything to change it. "There's magic in this misery / So no matter what you say / I don't think I'll ever change," she says in the second verse of the song. It's all about self-reflection and -acceptance, about soul-seeking and coming to the conclusion that this is who she is and who she might always be. It's a battle we've all found ourselves locked in, but Aplin is one of the lucky ones; she's come to terms with it, and released a beautiful song about it on top.
"Liike You Say You Do," "Losing Me," "So Far So Good," and "Nothing Really Matters" are all much-needed pick-me-ups after listening to "My Mistake" six times on repeat with tears streaming down my face. "Magic" is a soft love song about affection and reassurance. The couple in this song don't need flowers or slow dancing to prove their love. They know the other loves them. There's no need to talk about it. It's a sweet song.
"Love Back" is another favorite. The guitar riff has me on edge the whole song, and it's a beautiful example of Aplin's vocal range. It's such a stark contrast to "Magic" that it almost gives me whiplash but in, like...a good way. It's such an empowered and empowering song, a fuck you to that ex who never treated you the way you deserved. That ex you feel should write you a check to pay you back for their shitty attitude.
The last two tracks on the album are "Miss You" and "Dear Happy." The penultimate track is upbeat and fun. The intro to "Dear Happy" is very "Mad World"-esque. "Dear happy don't go / not there but I'm close / I just always thought I'd never win," Aplin croons, a letter to herself; she never imagined happiness, true elation, everlasting, for herself. So many themes come together to make this song: both romantic and self-love, and Aplin's own journey to self-discovery and -acceptance. All themes heavily prevalent in the album as a whole, so it only makes sense that she chose to close an album about understanding herself, no matter the cost, with the title track in which she tells us that she thinks she'll be okay.
Gabrielle Aplin is a singer and a songwriter with some of the most memorable love songs I've ever heard. She can be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. She'll be heading out on a tour of the UK starting the beginning of March:
4 Mar: Glasgow, Saint Luke’s
5 Mar: Liverpool, Academy 2
6 Mar: Newcastle, Wylam Brewery
7 Mar: Manchester, Manchester Academy 2
9 Mar: Belfast, Limelight
10 Mar: Dublin, Olympia Theatre
12 Mar: Leeds, Stylus
13 Mar: Cardiff, Y Plas
14 Mar: Nottingham, Rock City
16 Mar: Brighton, Concorde 2
17 Mar: London, Shepherds Bush Empire
18 Mar: Bristol, SWX
If you have the opportunity, I would say try your hardest not to miss this tour. These songs are going to cut even deeper live.