Lily Konigsberg, “Lily We Need to Talk Now”

Lily Konigsberg
Lily We Need to Talk Now
WHARF CAT
7/10

In the wake of a breakup, sometimes what you’re left with is a lot of fragments of yourself to pick up and reassemble. Believe it or not, I spent some time trying to find a less dramatic way to say that, so it’s probably best to just let Lily Konigsberg show you. The NYC-based indie pop artist’s full-length solo debut, Lily We Need to Talk Now, is sometimes a breakup record lyrically, but even more so in the abstract. She’s been working with these chunks of songs since 2016, tumbling them until smooth—at least smooth enough to hold in your bare hands if you’re careful with them.

One way that manifests is the range of distinct collaborators, from producer Nate Amos of Water From Your Eyes to her bandmates from other projects like Palberta or Lily and Horn Horse (flautist Cal Fish steals the show on the quirky dance jam “Alone”). There’s also the sheer breadth of styles, from bouncy power pop (“Proud Home”), to new age deprivation float-tank soundtracks (“Don’t Be Lazy with Me”), to spiky pop punk (“Bad Boy”). On an even more visceral level, it’s the way she transmits her voice, whether in Auto-Tuned gloss or paring back to a crackly, voice-memo whisper.

It’s all the anguish and exhilarating possibility of a post-breakup period, and it extends to the lyrics, too. “There’s a lot of sadness or strangeness in them,” Konigsberg shared of the lyrics leading up to the record’s release. “This album is clearly about breaking up with somebody that I love, but in all of my music, there’s humor.” The drum machine- and acoustic 12-string-driven single “Sweat Forever” is ground zero, with its background giggles and interjections (“Dare I say it? Yeah”) and the winky face implied in the title lyric, “I can make you sweat forever.” It all sits comfortably with Amos’ melancholy string and horn arrangements, but on “Hark,” with just the drums and bass to underline her vocals, the effect is one of vulnerability.

Some critics noted that Konigsberg’s last record with Palberta, Palberta 5000, tended toward monotony in its repetitive gestures at hook-making. Whatever the reason, it’d be hard to argue a lack of know-how. Lily We Need to Talk Now is pretty relentlessly catchy—it’s one thing that draws its piecemeal bits together. Then again, it’s only piecemeal until it isn’t. The record’s 30-second solo piano overture (thank you, Andrea Schiavelli) is lovely on its own, but it also echoes in the keys that open “Roses, Again.” A moment of clarity about artistic life—“I hate the fact that I belong to a sound that needs my help or else it will die”—becomes even more meaningful in the rocking closer “True,” where Konigsberg reflects on what (or who) she herself would die without.

That’s what makes a breakup such a good subject for a debut album; it’s the chance to define yourself. Insofar as Lily Konigsberg can be defined, it’s as a songwriter who artfully draws together appealing aspects of the scene around her and sprinkles them with her own personality.

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