Album Review: Abby Sage – Fear of Yours & Mine EP

[4AD; 2021]

Abby Sage‘s music seems to emanate from some dimly-lit room, as if through a door cracked just enough for you to take in what’s going on. It is so intimate that listening can feel invasive. Her voice is soft, even delicate, but possesses a certain sternness at the same time, gentle and authoritative all at once.

Her new EP, the aptly titled Fears of Yours & Mine, digs deeper into a collective wound than she ever has before, drawing inspiration from doubts and insecurities within a fledgling relationship. It captures, with almost eerie accuracy, those feelings of uncertainty that come along with a possible new love. Will they stay interested? Will I? Is this the real deal? These concerns and more roost grimly over affairs here, gripping the listener tightly and dragging us along into the fearful world of her creation.

This being said, Sage never careens about, preferring to drift wistfully towards an ambiguous future, feeling as tentative as the relationship she captures. The music behind her is, in contrast, always sure of itself, boasting carefully deployed strings and serene yet insistent percussive elements, as well as dominant, severe electronic elements.

Opener “Smoke Break” finds her putting on a seemingly obligatory brave face and detaching herself from the events transpiring around her, preferring to plead the fifth on her love life rather than risk another wound. When she listlessly sings, “You take the high road / and I’ll take a smoke break,” the words hit with an almost cruel force. At the back end of the choruses, she’s nearly consumed in reverb and a barrage of sounds, her voice awash in the dense music.

Fears of Yours & Mine continues in a parade of mourning and wounded words. Sage’s strumming is often confronted by melancholic synths, and, atop it all, her gently commanding voice. The occasional starkness of the music allows for her words to take on just the sort of prominence they should, exploring the cyclical nature of a wounded relationship with at times unnerving accuracy.

The album’s most lovelorn moment, and arguable peak, comes with “When I Leave”: “I kinda hate it when you leave / but I’m not one to say I need you, baby … / Fuckin’ hate it when you call me darlin’, on an LA mornin’, … I want you.” Like all too many of us, she’s lonely, even desperately so, but too insecure and controlled to simply say it. The way she churns through contradictory statements within a mere breath of each other captures the truly fleeting nature of human emotions, all to the tune of sweeping, brutally sorrowful strings. We’re as liable to lose a love simply out of pride and fear as to gain one through chance.

 “There’s a fire in your mind, I can’t deny the way it burns me too,” Sage sings on “Fever Dream”, and these words capture, perhaps most clearly of all, the singer’s insight into playing the saviour. We all want to feel we can fix the person we’re with – all the more so the deeper their wounds – but there’s no denying that simplest of truths: when you plunge into the deep for another, they may well pull you down with them. It may sound selfish, even cruel, but there’s an undeniable truth to the words. It’s these very risks that Sage fearlessly explores on Fears of Yours & Mine. Inevitably, it leaves us without an answer, but it does offer something equally valuable, and rarely attained: catharsis.

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