Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is the latest from soulful, country-infused artist Faye Webster, Atlanta Millionaires Club.
When performed with care, melancholy is an art. One step in the wrong direction and you’ve entered depression territory or retreated into pessimism land, which is not necessarily where anyone sets out to go. Melancholy resides in the same aesthetic cul-de-sac as pout and camp, but is something different entirely. It’s genuine but mannered, nearly winking. It’s not easy to pull off, but it certainly helps if you, like ATlien Faye Webster, have an arsenal of smart hooks and copious, copious amounts of weepy pedal steel. (Note: How she made this much pedal steel this varied and make this much sense in this many sonic contexts remains a mystery to me, but boy, is it incredible.)
On her third LP and Secretly Canadian debut, Atlanta Millionaires Club, the Awful Records alumna fuses the country and americana she grew up on (Glen Campbell, early Gath Brooks) with more current inspirations like Aaliyah and Angel Olsen to bottle the feeling of being uncontrollably lachrymose when it’s 72 degrees and sunny out. And while “genreless” has become somewhat of a meaningless term these days, Faye busts open and blends genre lines more seamlessly and unnoticeably than any artist in recent memory. One minute she’s soundtracking the universal introvert mantra (“I should go out more”) to a tropically laid-back melody, and the next she’s got fellow Awful Records peer and occasional co-collaborator Father sliding in for a verse next to her sultry chorus on the sparkling (and honestly? thirsty) highlight “Flowers.”
The cover pictures Webster, dead-eyed and visor-clad, staring into space with a handful of chocolate coins melting absently over her mouth and dripping down her chin. It’s not the cover you’d expect from an album that’s as largely introspective and lonely as the album it’s made to characterize, but only something as droll and subtly unnerving as Webster’s constant, clever tone could grace the front. “I want to be happy, find a man with an old name just like me and get over how my dog is my best friend, and he doesn’t even know what my name is,” she sings on languishing, soulful 6/8 ballad “Jonny.”
Even her straightforward love songs, like daydream of a lead single “Kingston” or playful “Right Side of My Neck,” are lightly, indulgently woeful and infused with blue. Drenched in lovelorn horns, buttery drum tones, and moseying bass lines that might as well be heavy, dramatic eyelash flutters, even the most elated moments on this album (much like life’s most elated moments) still aren’t without a sigh. A song about your neck still smelling like your lover after they’ve left has a reason or two to be dreadfully corny and overdone, but through Faye’s lens, it’s the furthest thing from it.
Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, the Head of Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.