Album Review: Lily Konigsberg – The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now

[Wharf Cat; 2021]

You get the sense Lily Konigsberg has skipped adulthood in its entirety. On one side, her work exudes the giddy, impulsive energy of a fledgling leaving the nest a bit too soon. But strangely enough, her songs also channel the poise, mileage and subtle fatalism only an elder stateswoman could summon. By all means, Konigsberg – both the person and the music pouring out of said person – occupies a very interesting zone. Her songs have an immediately satisfying, rousing pop sensibility that could be performed in an episode of Glee. Simultaneously, she’s no stranger to attending oddball house shows where they serve Rolling Rocks on ice in a cracked bathtub.

It suits her cheeky, offbeat disposition to press fast-forward with the ennui of someone skipping songs on their phone. Enter the ‘compilation album’ The Best Of Lily Konigsberg Right Now, a delightfully dorky, sometimes bittersweet recital of her growing pains and coming-of-age misadventures. But before we get to that, we’re introduced to a glimpse of Konigsberg in her current ultimate form on the infuriatingly catchy “Owe Me”. Now this is a bona fide pop gem of a song that transcends her distinct idiosyncrasies. Its funky “Train In Vain”-drums, pliable R&B synths (courtesy of Horn Horse Matt Norman) and the hushed bravado of her vocal delivery make you want to mash that repeat button over and over again.

The Best Of Lily Konigsberg Right Now plays out like your typical omniscient plot structure in the vein of Titanic. While Konigsberg chalks up “Owe Me” as a testament to the power of communion, friendship and collaboration, the other tracks feel selected on very deliberate, personal terms. The brittle indie rocker “7 Smile” reconstructs a panic attack with a seething matter-of-factness that reminds a bit of Elliott Smith (it’s worthwhile to point out here that Konigsberg claimed to have listened to Smith non-stop for four years straight). Even though the subject matter is dark, the song shakes the listener in this strangely comical slow motion sequence when a rude awakening hits the synapses.

Through and through, Konigsberg exudes an infectious confidence, permeating her shrewd pop smarts even through her more experimental recordings. This really inspires you to lean in closely as she is in the midst of figuring things out. The minimalist “Rock And Sin” is a great example: even though the song is based entirely around repeating vocal loops, you can easily imagine all the bells and whistles, simply because the hooks are so goshdarn great. You get the sense Konigsberg wanted to preserve the recordings in a way that’s faithful to how she felt at the time, as if showing the listener an intimate diary entry. The knotty punk workouts “At best a #3” and “I Said” could have easily been converted to Palberta tracks under different circumstances.

The compilation does a nice job of teasing Konigsberg’s very particular set of skills from a production standpoint as well. She’s resourceful to the extent that she can write fully formed pop songs within the most succinct of temporal spaces, and each song feels like a compulsive personal challenge to see how far she can stretch it. It’s a quality she very much shares with Frankie Cosmos. Though on these recordings the end results usually seem secondary – and admittedly, vary in consistency – it’s the damnedest thing whenever she pulls it off. The Arthur Russell-indebted bedroom house of “Just Like All The Clouds”, the cheeky, Moonrise Kingdom-ish “Waterfall Snake Juice”, and the wilted dream pop of “Roses” brandish her sheer versatility as a composer.

Releasing a compilation at this stage of Konigsberg’s career is due to some poking fun at – Konigsberg may be seen as a new Rising Artist, but in her mid-twenties she already has the credentials and experienced the toils of a savvy veteran in the bizz. It’s perhaps a bit of a bummer that none of the tracks Konigsberg wrote with LUCY made it on here, but a strange hunch tells me that joint enterprise has far from ended.

The Best Of Lily Konigsberg Right Now shows Lily Konigsberg putting her creative path under the X-ray, and all the stray routes and odysseys she took to get to this level of her creative powers. But the point of where she isn’t might be one she stresses the most: or more specifically put, the point of where she’s headed. On “Owe Me”, she breaks the fourth wall and thanks a mock audience for coming to her show, met by a modest smattering applause. “If you didn’t know, now you certainly know.” she calls it. Indeed… now we most certainly do.