Album Review: Faye Webster – Underdressed At The Symphony

[Secretly Canadian; 2024]

If there’s one thing that we can rely on musicians to do time and time again it is chronicling the universal struggle of figuring out all the quirks in that silly little thing we call love. That being said, there are some artists that just do it better than others and find inventive ways to scratch that urge we all have to understand the nuances of love and relationships. In her fifth studio album, Underdressed at the Symphony, Faye Webster is like Cupid firing arrows directly at the obsessive desire that lives within us all.

As a whole, the album follows the gentle and easy-to-listen-to cadence brought by the soft rock genre, but Webster adds her signature R&B flair which is what makes her music so luscious in its atmosphere and flow. “Thinking About You” opens up the album and entrances listeners into a repetitive and obsessive landscape of thought. However, what is so clever about this song is how it precedes “But Not Kiss”. While “Thinking About You” presents us with a mantra-like repetition of “I’m thinking about / Thinking about you / I’m thinking about / Thinking about you,” the track “But Not Kiss” details the contradictory experience of indecision and doubt when it comes to the idea of revisiting old sparks. Webster sings, “I hope you’re okay but I won’t ask / If you’re in a good place I won’t mess with that / But I’m here when you need I always have.” Between both tracks, Webster recognizes the fact that thoughts about one person may be all-consuming, but at the same time she accepts that, while you may think of someone all the time, it is alright to just leave it at that. 

While the majority of the album discusses matters of love, “Wanna Quit All the Time” deviates and deals with the observation of individual habits. The lyrics are relatable and perfectly encompass the feeling of being overwhelmed by your insecurities and this is underscored by a slight country drawl in the instrumentation. Along with the rich timbre and sparkly keys, Webster generates a truly addictive soundscape. 

Following in wonderful succession is “Lego Ring” which features the talents of Lil Yachty and balances a range of tempo changes and reverts to contemplations of love. In this track, Webster seems to comedically muse about the relationship between love and pain by suggesting that a potential love is like a Lego ring – something sentimental and sweet in theory but tainted by the threat of hurt when you slip it on your finger. 

“Lifetime” is like the sister to first track “Thinking About You”. Where the opener explores the future, “Lifetime” contemplates how Webster’s present is impacted by her past. While the idea of “Can’t imagine me / Before you / In a lifetime / In a lifetime” is simple, the image and emotion it paints are incredibly poignant, especially in a discussion about life and love. If we are all made up of fragments of the people whose paths we cross, then it is only apt for us to contemplate who we might have become had we not introduced certain new characters into our lives. Romantic partners in particular have a lasting effect, and Webster’s tribute to this human experience is much appreciated in the musical canon of love. 

In a total shift of tempo from “Lifetime”, “He Loves Me Yeah!” comes in hot with a 70s rock tempo and chords and with a sprinkle of distortion on her vocals, it feels very fresh and cool. Exemplifying her comedic tendencies, “eBay Purchase History” is a laidback observation of scattered thoughts. In the end, though, Webster concludes that while she is “always bored” and “never satisfied” it’s the familiar that grounds her: ”I’ve been listening to the same thing again / Close my eyes, I can smell my old apartment / It’s kinda nice to have familiarity / A sweet escape for whenever I need.” 

As we reach the end of the album, we come to the title track of the album “Underdressed at the Symphony” which employs that soothing, rich, dark country twang and touches back on the whole idea of ruminating on the ebbing of emotion that comes with second-guessing relationships. Concluding the album and all that it touched on narratively is “Tttttime”, which precisely takes Webster’s expression of restlessness with herself and with her thoughts on relationships. She meshes these feelings with the now all-too-familiar monotony that comes with waiting for change while being afraid to pursue too much of it due to an affinity for the comfortable and known. 

Underdressed at the Symphony is truly Faye Webster at her best. Her ability to speak about truly complex and philosophical facets of love and the self in a lyrically simplified way, but with sonically expansive and cohesive instrumentation, is admirable and incredibly progressive in the world of genres and storytelling.