All of the songs on Faye Webster‘s third album Atlanta Millionaires Club have the feel of a song you’ve heard before. Not that you actually have—the album didn’t exist until just this year. But these songs also wouldn’t have made sense in a kind of deja vu context either, not upon closer listen. The 21-year-old singer/songwriter swirls styles and genres together based not on traditional hallmarks of genre but on how good the elements sound together, and they sound really good. It’s how a song that sounds like a Rumours outtake can somehow feature the arrangement of a lost countrypolitan classic, or how a dream pop song can feature guest rapping. And it somehow all works together quite nicely.
Then again, Webster’s career thus far has been spent going against expectations. Her earliest releases were issued while she was a teenager on Awful Records, a label typically known for hip-hop. And well before this full-length debut, she established herself professionally as a photographer, one whose portfolio includes a Nike campaign and idiosyncratic shots of Atlanta rappers such as Lil Yachty and Killer Mike. Had she stopped there, she’d still have been well on her way to something great. Instead, she further opens up her own songwriting and delivers an outstanding set of songs at once subtle and stunning.
One of those subtleties is Webster’s voice, which is neither Dolly grand nor Lucinda gritty. But her hushed delivery gives a song like standout ballad “Jonny” an intimacy that makes the emotion behind it more palpable and less showy, particularly when aided by such a gorgeous array of horns, strings and Rhodes piano. And the vast majority of songs here are arranged gorgeously, giving her laid-back, ’70s-style soul-pop sound an even wider scope. The pedal steel that opens “Room Temperature” is an indication of the lush paradise that awaits the listener, ironically undercut by Webster’s own malaise as she sings, “I should get out more.” Single and highlight “Right Side of My Neck” is Stevie Nicks with a side of Lambchop, warm and grooving beneath a brilliant array of shimmering instrumentation.
By penultimate track “Flowers,” Webster delivers a callback to her Awful Records tenure, including a guest appearance from Father. The song is more R&B slow jam than the lush A.M. radio pop that precedes it, but the twinkling keyboards and dreamy atmosphere ensures a comfortable fit, that the mood never breaks or that the tone be interrupted. Whether employing the tools of ’70s pop, country or contemporary R&B, the hues remain part of the same color palette, and the mood a consistent shade of wistful melancholy. In her hands, none of these sounds sound quite how you remember them, but you’ll almost certainly never forget them.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.