‘You Had Me At Goodbye’ is an intriguing insight into the mind of it’s creator. Lyrically personal whilst still accessible, it’s a singer-songwriter record that loses many of the genre’s tropes in favour of fresh, original ideas which do not cost the album any of the sincerity so entwined with more traditional entries into the style. Album opener ‘Antiseptic Greeting’ pairs a bustling backing of vibrant indie pop to a set of lyrics that gives the listen an insight into Crain’s anxious thoughts, as she sings of being “confused by choices at the grocery” and wondering if she’s “pregnant or just stressed”. These are lyrical themes broad enough to be accessible whilst still retaining a deep sense of the personal – a trait that runs throughout the album.
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Musically, ‘You Had Me At Goodbye’ is a surprisingly varied set of songs. ‘Loneliest Handsome Man’ transcends the status of simple if effective piano ballads, thanks to a vibrant and wildly imaginative arrangement that gives the song a distinctly experimental slant – which, on paper, could sit at odds with the sentiment of the song. Instead it stands here as an experiment that pays strong dividends, creatively enriching an already memorable track. Rather than simply settling to complement existing melodies, the album’s usage of strings is daring – often crafting counter melodies and adopting an almost playful attitude to rhythm.
Elsewhere, too, the album can boast an unpredictable palette. The feisty scuzz-pop of ‘Smile When’ throws a dirty, rumbling bass synth into the mix, whilst ‘Windmill Crusader’s edgy synth drone sets its against a taut, brisk rhythm section. The album’s highlight comes with another left turn; ‘Red Sky, Blue Mountain’, which sees Crain sing in her native Choctaw language. A gorgeous reverie of a song, it’s a change of pace to the often more energetic material on the album and a welcome deviation on an already varied set of songs. Another highlight comes with the aching melancholy of ‘When The Roses Bloom Again’; a tale of “a soldier and his sweetheart, brave and true”, surely Crain’s take on a classic folk song. Again, the album’s production shines here, with sweeping string arrangements that go ‘above and beyond’ to embellish the song in a way that few can.
‘You Had Me At Goodbye’ is a quirky, endearing set of songs that has no shortage of new ideas to offer up. It’s lyrically intriguing, offering both an insight into Crain herself, whilst also weaving the evocative stories of others. With such a varied set of songs backing up her lyricism, there’s plenty of new nooks to discover on repeat plays and, as such, it’s an album well worth revisiting after that first play-through.