“I can’t wait for you to start. I can't wait for you to stop.”
This simple line loops over and over while a mirage of tones escalates behind it. I’m struck by the bold choice of opening lyrics. I also begin to realize I'm listening to a proper intro, and my ears perk up. Start//Stop begins and ends as quickly as its name would suggest and I've already learned a lot about what I’m about to listen to. This is a project. The production is painstakingly good and the presence of such a strong overture suggests a lot of foresight. This is music to pay attention to.
Start//Stop leads perfectly into Make You Smile and the energy level immediately increases. Make You Smile takes me right back to the 2000s. It has all the hallmarks of good pop punk. A solid high energy drum track, vamping guitar and a nice vocal blend of smooth melodies and raw performance. It even has gang vocals! “All I wanna do is make you smile.” Mission accomplished.
Our Numbered Days starts in with warm acoustic guitar sounds and a sad thoughtfulness. The lyrics tell the story of someone desperately trying to hold on to a moment they know is fleeting. It’s the perfect follow up to Make You Smile. Make You Smile was the first day of a honeymoon, and Our Numbered Days is the last. I love the range on display in this album already.
Lay It On Me starts with a greasy verbed out guitar that makes me sit back in my chair. The clean production combines with the heavy minor melodies and honest lyrics to create a smooth as glass tone with a razor sharp edge. Whatever innocence was being held onto in Our Numbered Days is abandoned here.
And that brings us to Still.
Still almost seems like a command. Guitar over silence and then a haunting distant voice demanding you be present with it. Gritty electronic drums and an elusive bass line provide a solid foundation to layer with increasingly industrial textures. Still builds until it's anything but. The lyrics chant there’s still time for us but unfortunately, I’m not sure I believe it.
My fears are confirmed with the next track.
C U L8R. It seems like the narrator has begun to accept the love lost. The vocal harmonies blend in a bittersweet way. Their presence in the mix makes me feel as if I'm listening to two people walking in unison as their paths move gradually away from each other. Occasionally they move back together but only momentarily until the vocals literally drop out into a dancey synth break that grabs the song and runs out the door with it.
Two Strangers is somehow simultaneously unfettered and apprehensive. It's both a dance tune and a heartbroken love song. It feels like a transition from where we’ve been to where we hope to be. Two Strangers is an invitation to lower the defenses for a night.
I have it on good authority that the movement of this album aligns with the stages of grief and I Want It To Be You is stuck right in the middle of the bargaining stage. It starts softly and intimately but the driving rhythm section betrays the underlying longing. Crunchy guitar sections duel with quiet acoustic licks alternating almost frantically until giving way into an anthemic pleading final chorus.
Ours substitutes the pleading of I Want it to Be You for a smoldering certainty. The vocals sound like they're coming through gritted teeth. I love the quiet confidence of this song but the subdued passion and occasionally eerie vocal lines seem almost foreboding. The term “calm before the storm” comes to mind.
Rhythm of the Unwind reminds me once again of how dynamic this collection of songs is. It blends so many of my favorite elements from 2000 alt-pop with the sensibilities of contemporary R+B. Synths, vocoders, and tasteful bass licks combine with a commanding vocal performance to create a really lovely vibe. This was not the type of storm I was expecting from the previous track but it has all the power I was anticipating.
Sunday’s Best is such a great title for this song because it sounds like the pep talk you give while fixing yourself in the mirror. This track takes all the emotional baggage of the album so far and puts it front and center. It’s quietly resigned but empowered. Soft keys and a beautiful vocal melody, Sunday’s Best is a ballad in all the best ways.
And then we end with Broken//Open (well, not really but I’ll get to that.) “I can’t wait for you to start. I can't wait for you to stop” returns in the same intriguing way it entered at the top of the record. Nothing illustrates the intention behind this music more perfectly then the evolution of the original theme. “I can’t wait for you to start. I can't wait for you to stop.” Becomes “I can’t wait for you to stop being broken. I can’t wait for you to start being open.” It feels as if the first time around, the narrator was speaking to someone else, but has now turned their attention inward.
It’s the perfect conclusion to this journey. It shifts from an optimistic dance beat to a trancey soundscape before emerging into something else entirely. There’s a lot about this track that I feel is best left for the listener to discover and you’ll want to listen closely. And in that way, it’s a great metaphor for the entire album.
Listen to this front to back. Lauren Kidd shows extreme thoughtfulness and songwriting skill in every track on this debut album. You’ll have your favorites that you’ll want to play on repeat, but this is one of those projects that should be experienced in its entirety. Not that you’ll need convincing. Put on the first track and you’ll be as swept up in this story, as I was.
Our Numbered Days is available to stream on Spotify and digital and vinyl copies are available for purchase on Bandcamp. (CLICK HERE)