The melancholic beauty of Lizzy McAlpine’s new pop-folk album Older

The cover of Older depicts McAlpine in a white bathing suit submerged in a lake.
Courtesy of RCA Records
The cover of Older depicts McAlpine in a white bathing suit submerged in a lake. Courtesy of RCA Records

On Friday, April 5, singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine released her new folk-pop album, Older. The 14-track album emerged deeply introspective and raw, with lyrics feeling straight out of McAlpine’s journal. Older’s emotional vocals and stripped-down instrumentals create an immersive listening experience, leaving audiences feeling like they are inside McAlpine’s recording studio. 

McAlpine is most well known for her TikTok viral song “ceilings” from her second studio album released in 2022, five seconds flat. “ceilings” resonated with millions of listeners, with its honest lyrics about revisiting memories of a former relationship, and quickly climbed the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

For this album, a live band recorded in the studio with McAlpine, giving the album’s songs an intimate and authentic feel. The album is composed mainly of soft piano and simple acoustics with a few songs building into ethereal strings and vocal harmonies. Older is less produced than McAlpine’s previous albums, allowing for the vocals and instrumentals to shine through.

“We recorded most of it live, tracking the entire band at the same time in one room, me included,” McAlpine said in a statement to Genius. “The passion in that space translates into the recorded music so much more than anything I’ve done before, and it has created a record that, in my opinion, is the best I’ve ever made.”

McAlpine takes listeners on a journey in her songwriting in Older, through the contrast of vividly detailed storytelling and unapologetic truths. While former album five seconds flat lyrically revolves around love and heartbreak, Older finds a more complex thematic angle. Although a few songs on the record are centered around love, it’s not the album’s significant theme. Older, as the album’s title suggests, is about transitioning into adulthood, including themes of emotional violence, alcoholism, stagnant relationships, and grief.  

Released Feb. 13, the album’s lead single “Older” is simplistically composed. McAlpine describes the difficult process of growing older in this stirring piano ballad. Although the song’s basic instrumentation may feel initially underwhelming, its raw and haunting quality, characterized by melancholic piano chords and poignant lyrics, is ultimately able to win audiences over. “Moms gettin’ older, I’m wanting it back,” McAlpine sings, expressing her desire to turn back the clock to simpler times. 

The album’s opening track “The Elevator” starts with soft, stripped-down piano, setting the scene for McAlpine’s melancholic vocals and lyrics. “Can we stay like this forever? / Can we be here in this room ’til we die? I think we can make it / I hope that I’m right,” she sings. Her introspective words convey a mixture of hope, urgency, and underlying sadness before the song builds into a more instrumentally complex bridge. 

In track eight, “Drunk, Running,” McAlpine delves into her more mature themes, describing her partner’s struggles with alcoholism and drawing comparisons to her love for him. Through haunting melodies and heartfelt delivery, she conveys the complex and heartbreaking nature of their relationship. The lyrics, “No one stops you / Nobody takes it from your hand,” paint a vivid picture of her partner’s ongoing battle with alcoholism. In the second chorus, she modifies the lyrics to “No one stops me / Nobody takes you from my hand,” subtly highlighting similar intricacies of their relationship.

Akin to the 13th song on previous albums, “March” reminisces McAlpine’s late father Mark McAlpine, through quiet piano and striking imagery. “Threw a rock into the water / Watched it sink down to the bottom / Tryna find the lesson in it all, but / I haven’t learned anything,” she sings. This raw and honest song captures the complexity of grief and the search for understanding, making it a standout track on the album.

The 14th and final track “Vortex” showcases McAlpine’s desire to break free from a toxic relationship that seems never-ending. The song begins with simple piano chords, building up to a transcending climax with heart-wrenching lyrics, “We’re just awful together, and awful apart.” This nearly six-minute song ties off the album with McAlpine’s signature unfiltered, confessional lyrics. 

Lizzy McAlpine’s album Older showcases her raw talent and introspective songwriting abilities. The haunting instrumentals and vocals beautifully encapsulate the album’s emotional depth. From the lead single “Older” to tracks like “Drunk, Running” and “Vortex,” McAlpine explores mature themes with authenticity and vulnerability. Overall, McAlpine’s newest album deserves a solid four and a half out of five feathers.

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