Alice Skye made a splash back in 2018 with her piano-driven, award-winning debut Friends with Feelings, yet that record’s follow-up, I Feel Better But I Don’t Feel Good, sees the Australian songwriter reach a whole new level. In addition to expanding the project into a full-band sound by enlisting brothers and childhood friends Sam and Kane King, the record benefits from Jen Cloher’s production—not to mention a few years’ experience managing her mental health, romantic relationships, and personal identity, all providing a new and refined perspective for her lyrics.
With recent support on-stage from The Avalanches (who recently provided Skye with an opening slot on a slew of dates) and in-studio from Moby (who featured Skye on his recent Reprise LP), perhaps the most meaningful recognition came from Bad Apples Music, the prolific Indigenous-run label which provides Skye a space to explore and broadcast her Wergaia background. The final track on I Feel Better, as she explains below, features verses in her native language, dispelling notions that these Aboriginal languages were “lost”—they were intentionally diluted by colonialism, she clarifies—while expressing frustration with the constant pressure to embody a certain “perfect aboriginal” ideal.
You can stream the record below, which drops today, and read on for info on each track courtesy of Skye.
1. “Stay in Bed”
Me and a good friend had been trying to catch up for weeks, but both struggle with depression. The times that we both felt up to leaving the house just weren’t aligning, making us both feel worse about feeling bad in the first place. We laughed about it on the phone and swapped comfort that it was OK, stay in bed, do what you need, and I’ll see you on the other side—we are still here for each other. I hung up and wrote this song.
2. “Grand Ideas”
Embarrassing of me to share this reference, but I just hear Emma Watson as Hermoine chime in with “Fear of a name only increases fear of the things itself.” I don’t think it is entirely applicable here, but I wrote this song after being diagnosed with mental health labels I’d never really thought about. I felt really swamped and like, “Oh, great, now what?” Now though, I have moments of feeling power in being able to name it, hold it, acknowledge it, put it away, or ignore it when I want to. I drove home with the chorus, “Everything I have is too heavy to hold, everything I do feels out of my control.” Originally, I only sang the chorus twice, but in the studio with Jen [Cloher] and my band, we just looped it over and over and ended up staying. I’m glad it did, because now when we get to play it live, it feels really cathartic and I love it.
I think a lot of people have complicated relationships with home. I grew up in the same place until I was 18, and my family farm has been around for generations. I get homesick a lot living in the city, but returning home comes with baggage.
4. “Hot Car”
This was written during Christmastime here when it gets genuinely pretty hot and my car did kill some flowers I planned to take somewhere. This song wasn’t going to be on the album, but when I showed it to my bandmates Sam and Kane, Jen who was producing, and Nick Huggins who engineered, we all related to it in some way. I don’t remember if I told them exactly what it was about, but I liked that we all had our own attachment to it in some way.
5. “Browser History”
I had the chorus down for this song for a while, but was struggling to put verses to it. I took it to my band, Sam came up with a chord progression on guitar, and the words came out on the spot. It’s a lot about that quote RuPaul says: “If you can’t love yourself, how you gonna love somebody else?” The “browser history” part came about because I accidentally left my Gmail account logged into my housemate’s computer and she saw everything I was googling.
6. “Everything Is Great”
This one is fun to play live. I won’t say too much about it because I like people to find their own meanings, but I think maybe we’ve all been there?
7. “Party Tricks”
This was my favorite going into the studio to work on. I really wanted a wall of sound against those lyrics and something you can play real loud. Content wise, it’s that cycle of dating people that feed the bad feelings you already have toward yourself. It can take a bit to get out of that. Sometimes I wish I changed the lyrics to, “The part of me that loves me really hates you,” but I wasn’t quite there at the time of writing this song.
8. “The Moon, The Sun”
This was our driving song. Sam wrote the music when we were driving from Melbourne to the really beautiful hilly country of Canberra. My songwriting process can be really insular, but my band is made up of twin brothers I’ve known since we were around four or five years old. It makes the process really fun and sweet.
9. “I Feel Better But I Don’t Feel Good”
I sometimes feel insecure about writing predominantly sad songs and being seen as the “sad girl singer.” I wrote this song a while ago when after a show, someone told me I should write happier songs. My first album, Friends with Feelings, was me at 16 to 20, very much at the beginning of figuring things out, which is still what this album is, but now I am 25. Still no idea, but more OK with that!
10. “Wurega Djalin”
I speak in my Wergaia language in this song, saying “I am searching, I am listening / I will search, to speak my tongue.” Some people talk about Aboriginal/First Nations languages being lost, but they weren’t lost. They were very intentionally removed as a process of colonization. We aren’t less of who we are because of it. Sometimes it feels like there’s pressure to be “the perfect aboriginal” or whatever that looks or sounds like to someone, but this is what I have and what I know. It’s a song for my family and anyone working to reclaim their identity and narrative.