Faye Webster : Underdressed at the Symphony

Faye Webster Underdressed at the Symphony review

To sum up Faye Webster as an antithesis to sad girl indie (or akin to “Phoebe Bridgers on SSRIs,” as one Twitter user quipped) is to gloss over her dynamic observations on love, breakups, and the moments in-between. Her latest record, Underdressed at the Symphony, challenges this assigned narrative. She’s not interested in portraying a linear story of healing or self-care. Instead, she opts to document both the extravagant and the mundane, the quixotic and the humdrum. “I think I hit a point in songwriting during this record where I was just like, man, I said a lot,” Webster explains in the album’s accompanying bio. “The record feels like a mouthful to me, but I don’t always have to be deep. I can just sit down and sing about this ring made of crystal Lego that I really want.” 

Webster continues to flesh out her soft alt-country whimsy on the latest addition to her catalog. It’s playful, it’s vulnerable, and longing at times, before snapping back into reality (“I want to see you in my dreams…but then forget” she teeters on “But Not Kiss”). Nick Rosen’s serene Fender Rhodes and Matt Stoessel’s forlorn pedal steel guitar are, without a doubt, the cynosure of the album. They provide this dreamy, optimistic atmosphere tinged with the slightest drop of melancholy, like the sweetness of a tart cherry.

This bittersweetness is temporarily obscured on “Lego Ring,” which is undeniably the liveliest song she’s put out in a while. For those who are just getting into Webster, it’s a leftfield collaboration between her and Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty. For the more seasoned listeners, it’s a heartwarming reunion between two middle school buddies who’ve been “always together like string beans,” Yachty chirps as Nick Rosen’s Wurlitzer  powers through like a laser blasting penetrative chords. While Webster brushes this off as just a fun song, her assertiveness in knowing what she wants signifies growth, a far departure from the insecurity and timidness of 2017’s “I Know You.” Whether it’s intentional or not, Webster is undeniably at her most confident and vehement here. 

Underdressed at the Symphony” brims with optimism—until it doesn’t. The title track is a punch to the gut that might very well lead to an impromptu sobbing session during and after the song’s duration. Swelling violins crescendo as she thinks about the compositions she discovered through a former lover. There’s some desire to relive the past, but Webster is practical enough to recognize what she’s holding onto is stagnant and long gone. 

“Feeling Good Today” is the only flop here. Faye runs her voice through a Vocoder, but the effect doesn’t fit the song. It’s jarring and too artificial, lacking the humanizing warmth that balances out Yachty’s shiny warbles from the previous tune. The minimal instrumentation doesn’t work to enhance the undercooked lyrics, though maybe that’s the point. She runs through a mundane routine of eating before noon, hanging out with siblings and blowing your paycheck on something dumb. She’s not trying to fill up the songs with grander moments. Webster’s not reinventing the wheel, nor does she seem all that invested in offering any new motifs or timbres. She’s not unimaginative per se, but it’s clear she’s found a formula that works, and frankly, it’s an addicting listen that almost guarantees an emotional response, whether it’s cathartic or euphoric.

Label: Secretly Canadian

Year: 2024

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Faye Webster Underdressed at the Symphony review

Faye Webster : Underdressed at the Symphony

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