Lizzy McAlpine’s ‘Older’ Makes Bedroom Pop Meditative

Writer Hailey Gates said the album leans into maturation and longing.

Indie artist Lizzy McAlpine’s third album “Older” chronicles an exploration of a new artistic subject matter — herself. 

Leaning into the themes of maturation suggested by the album’s title, McAlpine’s soft singing and candid lyrics mold the album into a secretive whisper delivered straight to the listener’s ear. 

Opening track “The Elevator” introduces the album’s introspective thesis. As McAlpine’s voice flows over light piano, the lyrics ponder the possibility of remaining unchanged as time goes by, making its pulled-back ponderings about mental stasis in spite of aging the album’s elevator pitch.

“Can we stay like this forever? / Can we be here in this room till we die?” McAlpine asks. 

The second track, “Come Down Soon,” demonstrates McAlpine’s characteristic talent for storytelling. The song is organized into various scenic vignettes, flashing back to moments she had with an unnamed lover. 

The anecdotal artistry is underscored by a strumming guitar and simple drum beats — the perfect song for a bedroom dance scene in a coming-of-age flick. 

“Like It Tends To Do” re-emphasizes McAlpine’s fear of change. Describing the turning tides of a relationship, McAlpine tries to reconcile the inevitability of change. 

“I can’t tell if we had nothing to lose / Or if everything had changed / Like it tends to do,” McAlpine sings. 

Track four “Movie Star” analyzes the ways people lose themselves in the process of learning to love someone. McAlpine’s self-harmonization through vocal layering is the highlight of this track, as the entwined voices seem to mimic her muddled thoughts.

“Who am I to you? / Who am I to myself? / What are you changing about me? / I feel like a movie star, but it’s getting old / Being famous for someone,” McAlpine sings. 

“All Falls Down” opens with the soaring sound of a clarinet. This track is bedroom pop amplified, as quintessential drums and acoustic guitar are overlaid with intricate horn and woodwind melodies. McAlpine uses these different sonic elements to demonstrate how overwhelmed she feels about growing up. 

“Yeah, it all falls down on you at the same time / Twenty-two / Was a panic attack / I can’t stop the time from moving / And I can never get it back,” McAlpine sings. 

“Staying” describes the complexity of staying in a doomed relationship. Once again, McAlpine’s colloquial lyrics are brilliant in their simplicity. Her ability to linguistically dissect what she’s feeling and why are what make McAlpine — and this album — so emotionally powerful. 

Track seven “I Guess” is a rumination on not knowing. As McAlpine discusses how love happens by chance rather than fate, guitar, piano and strings overlap into a triumphant melody. This creates an air of hope despite the uncertainty described by the lyrics. 

The song “Drunk, Running” divulges McAlpine’s feelings of complacency in the alcoholism of someone she cares about. Leaning into the tension between what she is doing and what she knows is right, McAlpine frames these thoughts with the image of her loved one breaking their leg while drunk. 

“Make a person out of memories / They won’t live up to it / I’m sorry I stay when I shouldn’t / No one stops me / Nobody takes you from my hand / Even when you / Break your leg drunk, running,” McAlpine sings. 

Track nine “Broken Glass” starts with an unassuming acoustic guitar. As McAlpine reminisces on the negative aspects of a past relationship, she finally allows herself to be angry. As the song continues and McAlpine’s frustration builds, so does the music, culminating in a chorus of low, booming piano and sky-high strings. 

“You Forced Me To” sticks out from the rest of the album. Chromatic scales and minor chords give the song a haunting feel, as if McAlpine herself is a possessed doll. This image of herself fits with the lyrics, as McAlpine expresses feeling controlled by a romantic relationship. 

The titular track “Older” contains every element of the standard McAlpine piano ballad. The singer’s velvety voice and lyrical prowess are the highlights of this song as she sings about watching her life pass by and her fear of always living in regret. 

“Over and over / Watch it all pass / Mom’s getting older / I’m wanting it back,” McAlpine sings. 

“Better Than This” chronicles McAlpine as she tries to practice self-love. Affirmations that someone will love her better in the future are interwoven with fears that she isn’t worthy of love. This song’s honest nature contributes to the conversational feel of the album. 

On the penultimate track “March,” McAlpine remembers her deceased father, framing her complex feelings about aging with ever-present memories of her father. 

The album’s final song “Vortex” brings McAlpine back to her roots — sitting at the piano. For the first three minutes, McAlpine describes her inner turmoil due to an unresolved past relationship. The final two minutes, however, are an instrumental crescendo, allowing the listener to process all that has happened in the time gone by.

Whereas McAlpine’s previous albums were explorations of finding and losing love, her third album dives into coming to terms with losing oneself in the aftermath. 

“One second into the next / I never know where my feet are / We’re spinning out of a vortex / I don’t remember who we are,” McAlpine sings.  

“Older” is available on all major streaming platforms

Featured image courtesy of RCA Records

Hailey Gates

Hailey Gates