by Allanah Maarteen
I often find myself disgusted by a new love song. What could be left to say about love? And worse, what could possibly be left to say about heartbreak? It pains me to hear an artist’s strained attempt to breathe new life into a phrase rotten with cliche.
Yet, I can’t condemn new love songs completely. Because as long as there are new people, there will be food for new love songs. And, so long as artists reject their vague generalities and cheap sentimentalities for trust in their own particular and precious details, we may have something to learn from them.
Deep down, I think Sydney Wright, Austin’s pop darling from West Texas, knows this. She released her debut record, Seiche, in early November, and at the end of the first track, “You Can Stay,” she meditates on love: “If there was no trust/there would never be this love…no love/not pure love/not true love/that I want.” In a child-like reverie, Wright longs for pure love, and the breathy naivete of her vocal delivery suggests it’s a love she believes in but hasn’t known. The otherwise heavy hitting pop song decrescendos, and Wright lilts a wistful melody over delayed guitar and quiet piano. It’s her most naked moment on the record. But in her nakedness, more than a longing for pure love (whatever that is), I hear an artist longing to connect with her own originality, longing to trust in herself. And god, I want it for her.
Drenched in delay and atmospheric pads, “Let You Let Me Go” sports a drum line that channels ‘80s titans like Eurythmics or INXS. But saccharin lyrical vaguery abounds while lines like “I was chasing the rainbow/but I already had my gold” or “You can read me like a book/and I can put you on the floor with just one look” plunge the listener into meaningless cliche. Here Wright also attempts to develop the tough-girl persona with lines like “heartbroke and headstrong” and “couldn’t shake the freedom of a fast lane.”
In “Tip” and “Time of Night,” Wright employs a full-mouth lyricism that quickly erodes into what feels like white-girl slam poetry, particularly in “Tip” when she takes to spelling it out: “L-I-E-S take it up with your G-O-D.” Elsewhere, “That Time of Night” dwells in late-night-party-girl themes that mostly serve to undermine Wright’s integrity, especially when she references Baha Men’s 2000 Top 40 hit, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Yes, she does in fact ponder “who let all the dogs out?” and perhaps she didn’t mean it as a reference, but my cheeks nonetheless flushed with embarrassment when I heard it.
In fact, a few times throughout the record, particularly in “Something,” I found myself wondering if I wasn’t listening to a mid-’90s chart topping country track. But Wright seems to reject that aesthetic in pursuit of something more indie-folk-pop—Florence and the Machine and distantly, Kate Bush. With Seiche, Wright never fully lands her appeal. Is it Top 40 country or pensive indie-folk rock? Whichever it is, in her next record, I hope she can find the balance.
Sydney Wright plays the Saxon Pub on December 1st for Guy Forsyth’s 50th Birthday Hoot Night and HAAM Fundraiser