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Faye Webster’s Sad-Funny Symphony

On her brilliant new album, the 26-year-old songwriter stakes a claim as the poet laureate of Gen-Z ambivalence
Faye Webster (Michael Tyrone Delaney)

Faye Webster – Underdressed at the Symphony
(Secretly Canadian)

Faye Webster’s “Lifetime,” the second single off her fifth album, Underdressed at the Symphony, is the kind of weirdly hooky, narcotic gem that a streaming app’s Repeat function was made for. The dubby, ricocheting snare; the elegant surges of strings; the creeping bittersweet melody à la Jon Brion—all of it accumulates into a feeling more than a song, and if the mood strikes, you’ll need to loop it. But even without a listener’s intervention, Webster’s music conjures up a vibe via repetition—delightfully milking the anxious, cliffhanging architecture of “But Not Kiss,” riding the soft-rocking chorus of “Thinking About You” into hypnosis. 

Webster’s commitment to alt-R&B-style repose, along with some keen sonic quirks, are just a couple of the ways the 26-year-old Atlantan contrasts the ’70s-era singer-songwriters she’s so often compared to. Still, the sheer musicality of what she does deserves boomers’ approval. To wit: Her pedal-steel player, Matt “Pistol” Stoessel, is as invaluable to Webster as David Lindley was to Jackson Browne. And guest Nels Cline will make guitar heads swoon on “Wanna Quit All the Time,” where his meld of the Dead, Television, and Jim Hall evokes his classic contributions to Sky Blue Sky

The most prominent Gen-Z earmark here is “Lego Ring,” a winning collab with her middle-school-mate Lil Yachty, a Floyd-loving MC who accents the track’s slippery temporal shifts before his triumphant bars. As for the album’s lyrics—which push breakup-record pain against proclamations of a woman’s wants and needs, while mixing in funny, specific details of contemporary life—those strategies aren’t so much new as they are smart and good. It’s tempting to call Webster an “old soul,” but thoughtful, creative young people are, thankfully, a ceaseless tradition. – GRADE: A-

You can check out Underdressed at the Symphony at Bandcamp and elsewhere. 

Secretly Canadian