New Music Monday 11/03/2024

By: Jacqueline Olechowski

Faye Webster’s fifth album, Underdressed at the Symphony, references the twenty-six year old singer-songwriter’s habit of spontaneously attending the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Wanting company and distraction but also the comfort of the anonymity of a crowd, Webster described her last minute symphony-goings as “therapy”. The Guardian describes the new album as a “record about hiding – from heartbreak, from fame”. This is a breakup album-ish, but Webster refrains from wallowing in it or giving any details. Many of her songs contain simple phrases or words repeated over and over: she repeats the line “in a lifetime” twenty-two times in the five minute song, “Lifetime”.
In this album, Webster takes a step back from the spotlight and lets her band take center stage. One of the main things that attracts me to Webster’s music is the heavy use of the pedal steel guitar, which, thankfully, is still present in Underdressed at the Symphony. Oftentimes Webster’s vocals are either electronically distorted or not even there at all, allowing her band to jam and offer gentle melodies. The glowy, soothing instrumentals remind me a bit of Khruangbin; nothing is too demanding of your
Webster’s genre is somewhere between country and alternative; The Guardian calls her music “70s tinged alt-country”. Her Spotify description states, “At any given moment, Webster might be making country-tinged indie rock flecked simultaneously by pedal steel guitar and modern R&B production”. Her genre melange is evident through the features on the album: Lil Yachty joins her on “Lego Ring,” creating playful and hypnotic auto-tuned harmonies, while Wilco’s lead guitarist Nels Cline joins her all throughout the album. (The opening track, “Thinking About You,” was originally titled “Wilco-Type Beat”.) Webster’s music is definitely a “background music on a Sunday morning” type of vibe, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s nice to hear a breakup album that’s also easy listening. Webster is introspective instead of angry, yearning but not regretful, observant and not preachy.
While her lyrics are simple on this album, a few lines are still contemplative and articulate. A few of my favorites: “Overthinking in my head again / I’m good at making shit negative,” “I used to be self-conscious / Well, really, I still am / I’m just better at figuring out why” (“Wanna Quit All the Time”). Another cute line sung by Lil Yachty in “Lego Ring”: “Me and you the dream team / Always together like string beans”. While this album features less of Webster’s vocals than previous albums, I don’t really mind. As a Wilco fan, I’ll gladly listen to the easygoing, soothing melodies.