Album Review: Allegra Krieger – I Keep My Feet on the Fragile Plane

[Double Double Whammy; 2023]

Allegra Krieger has been making her own brand of folk music for some years now. While she has never fit herself into the traditional mould of songwriting the genre expects, with each release she’s stepped further away from it. Her chord progressions often transpire in unexpected ways, and her phrasing is set with a deliberate tone. As she sang on her 2022 album Precious Thing, “what I feel is what I’ll be.”

On I Keep My Feet on the Fragile Plane – Krieger’s fourth album and first for the Double Double Whammy record label – she continues stepping outward, finding new ways to knock her music off its axis. It’s assured but keeps the listener in a tentative place, like Krieger is directing you through complete darkness but never telling you the terrain is uneven.

On “Low” she wrestles with depression as a dark hue creeps in, murky electric guitar notes muddying the deadpan delivery, while on “A Place For It To Land” fizzy electronics repeatedly ebb and flow in and out of the picture, adding tension to the otherwise lightly sweet acoustic song. “Terribly Free”, with its lumbering piano chords, manages to find knots in the chord progression, Krieger not satisfied to settle for a I VI V chord structure. 

It’s features like these that make Fragile Plane and Krieger’s music in general that bit more interesting; it’s easy to imagine another version of this album being music that just passes by your ears with little imprint being made. The record works in some horn and woodwind arrangements (courtesy of Sammy Weissberg) that give tracks like “A Place For It To Land” and “I Had Some To Give” a baroque feel, even evoking the likes of Joanna Newsom in the latter instance. Moments might be ornate, but they rarely feel superfluous; the horns and woodwinds seem to enforce the idea of stability in the music as her lyrics paint feelings in the opposite direction.

And Fragile Plane is an album of opposites. Krieger repeatedly refers to forces pulling and pushing in inverse directions – all while trying to keep balanced and her feet grounded, as per the title. “The door’s gotta open and the door’s gotta close”; “And I never forgot that as something grows / Something else must rot”; “Everything’s leaving just as it’s coming in”; “I thought that I was heading north / But I was walking south.” Her observations of life are quietly poignant, taking in the contradictory nature of existence. On the aforementioned “Low” she’s trying to keep busy to stave off the darkened mindset (“Anything to pass the time / Anything to feel good”) while on “Carry Me Into Tomorrow” she’s taking in detail to ground herself in reality. “How does it feel?” she asks in the chorus, and it comes off like a question pointed inwards rather than at the listener.

There’s lots of detail that Krieger picks up on across the album. “Nothing In This World Ever Stays Still” is a stream of consciousness folksy guitar track that takes repeated listens to unpack fully. Elsewhere she can catch you off guard. “After work I have a drink / And walk to Matthew’s down the street / I love the way I don’t think / When he’s fucking me,” she drops at one point.

It’s part of Krieger’s talent: she’s always out to venture into unexpected territory and never just simply follow the path as laid down in front of her. Like life, there are unexpected bumps along the road, and it’s never just plain sailing all the way. She’s evocative of singers who came before her (Joni Mitchell, Vashti Bunyan), but instead of trying to recreate their music, she opts instead to colour her tracks in a way personal to her. It’s outside the lines at times and consists of hues and shades you might not expect, but this is what makes Fragile Plane a fascinating listening experience.