Published Mar 26, 2019Laura Stevenson has traded her rougher punk edges for a much slower, smoother, more orchestral production on her fifth album, The Big Freeze. But that's not to say there's no bite. Stevenson's creative, assertively DIY spirit is still there — found in her ability to go beyond constraints of genre and traditional song structure, as well as in the often stark bravery of her lyrics.
The Big Freeze revolves around themes of isolation and loneliness; carefully crafted layers of sound and echo-y harmonies evoke that distance and simultaneously bring comforting warmth. Add Stevenson's languid, sweetly meandering vocals, and the album can feel a bit like running through molasses at times. This is broken up a in a few places through songs like the poppier (yet lyrically dark) "Dermatillomania," or even the short little treat "Hawks," which allows a breath of clear air before heavier skies move back in. Also a treat throughout The Big Freeze is Stevenson's delicate guitar work, which weaves and sparkles to support her voice.
Stevenson writes evocative lyrics, from descriptions of an abandoned waterpark in the devastatingly vulnerable "Value Inn" to finding aching power in the seemingly mundane in "Living Room, NY."
The Big Freeze is an album that invites listeners to "lay back, arms out" to experience its richness. It will perhaps be a surprising listen to fans expecting more upbeat material, but if you can surrender to the slower, weightier swells of this album, you might just find yourself floating. (Don Giovanni)