This is what good music feels like.

November 15, 2021

Despite being fairly new to the music industry, Gracie Abrams is already making a name for herself. She opens for grammy-nominated Olivia Rodrigo on tour and has worked with musicians such as Aaron Dessner who has also made music for Taylor Swift. She started releasing music in the summer of 2020, with her EP Minor. Then in late 2021, she released her first album, This Is What It Feels Like.

Abrams on the cover of her first album. (Interscope Records)

While listening to This Is What It Feels Like, you are not hearing a chronological story. However, the themes throughout the album remain the same. Heartbreak, growing up, and insecurities. 

Abrams begins the album with a song, whose title is a shorter version of the album name itself, “Feels Like” Abrams introduces the project by referencing songs by other artists (Bon Iver). She sings about growing up, moving to new cities and having to leave old friends behind. 

She moves on to the song “Rockland.” “Rockland,” was released as a single for the album in late October and peaked at number 20 on the Apple Music charts. Her delicate, angelic voice holds this album together. But it shines through the most in “Rockland.”

This album is only twelve tracks long, yet every one was written with obvious care and effort. Lyrics are creative, heartbreaking and intriguing. They are all tied together. 

“For Real This Time” mixes together the themes of growing up and heartbreak. It seems Abrams has been trying to leave a relationship for a while. She even dreams and plans her escape countless times. Eventually, there is the final straw. She gains the courage to pack up her things and leave for real this time. 

“Camden” is a standout track. Steering away from “smaller” topics and moving on to harsher ones. Abrams discusses depression, eating disorders and drugs. There is no ‘Camden’ mentioned in the song; it seems she is referring to herself. In this song, she is embracing all sides of herself. Encouraged or discouraged. Strong versus weak. She will get through her issues and overcome her emotions — because she has to?

Abrams and Dessner in the recording studio for the track, “Rockland.” (Gracie Abrams)

Almost halfway through the album, Abrams changes the tone. While the beginning of the album contains sader sounding songs. “The Bottom” does a full 180. Her upbeat tone makes this seem more than a ‘sad-girl’ album. Only on the surface. When you listen deeper, you see the lyrics are just as sad as the previous ones. Abrams does not believe she can be loved by someone else without dragging them down. Or to the bottom, as she calls it. 

Abrams keeps this tone up for a little longer in the next number. In fact in “Wishful Thinking,” she cleverly references “The Bottom” in the opening lyric; ‘Meet you down at the bottom, finish your bottle.’  She almost seems to be the therapist to the friend that this song takes place around. She explains she ‘really thought that I could fix this.’ However,  ‘nothing’s different.’

Tying back to the relationship theme from earlier songs, Abrams’ “Older” is just over three minutes long, yet it crafts the idea of heartbreak wonderfully. She describes the importance of communication, the impact of growing up and growing apart has on what seems to be perfect relationships. She knows that it’s both parties’ faults, but the break still feels the same. 

“Better” shows the effect two people have on each other during a relationship. Something seems to happen to her partner, and it affects them negatively. At the same time Abrams feels the effect because of their strong connection to one another. Both are hurt, and so the relationship falls as well. They only truly get better because they end up away from each other. 

 

“Hard to Sleep” discusses Abrams’ intrusive thoughts and the scary reality of overthinking. Like many others, it consumes her. Making it hard to let things go and hard to sleep. She even believes this feeling only happens to her. Making it so much worse. ‘It’s only me, me, me’

Abrams was born and raised in Los Angeles. Everyone wants a change once in a while. “Augusta” discusses how sometimes you can feel lost in life. Pushing you want to ‘change your number’, ‘cut your hair’ and even move cross country. As Abrams puts it: ‘California makes me exhausted.’ This symbolizes how sometimes repetition is tough on your mental state. 

During “Painkillers,” Abrams is not being literal. Instead, she is using a metaphor and comparing her partner and painkillers. She was dependent on her partner, but they were also the cold resentment in her life. “Painkillers” is a genius analogy, because they seem like the help on the outside, but the damage they cause is irreversible. 

Wrapping up the album, Abrams sings “Alright.” The whole album relates back to the title showing what moments in her life feel like. “Alright” is no exception, and this track shows how not being alright can impact you. How all the intrusive thoughts can show up overnight and how they can consume you just as quickly.

It is almost shocking that this is Abrams’ first album. She has the effect it takes some artists years to capture and handfuls of albums to achieve.  Her heavenly voice, mixed with her thoughtful and devastating lyrics, pull the album’s strings beautifully together. It will be hard for her to outdo herself, but I am excited to see what comes next.

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