Prior to her 2016 self-released album Orbit, Alice Phoebe Lou made her bones producing CDs and selling them at live shows. Performing yearly at South by Southwest, the South African singer enchanted audiences with her melodic yet whimsical sound. About one year after the global shutdown, Alice Phoebe Lou gratified her growing fan base by releasing her third album Glow on March 19.
Incorporating elements of indie, pop, folk, jazz, punk and psychedelic music, Glow offers an introspective twist to the “vibey” music of today. At its core, Glow is a compilation of thoughtful love songs, few of which follow conventional songwriting formats. An exemplary arrangement for these trying times, Glow embraces the spirit of self-reflection that only comes from a year of solitude. Lou’s angelic voice accompanies the album’s soft psychedelia to create a soothing, poetic stream of consciousness about all things love, heartbreak and self.
The album’s opener, “Only When I,” is a dreamy recount of the occasions in which Lou thinks of her partner — “only when” she cannot breathe, doesn’t feel right or when it’s late. The song’s unique, list-like structure sets the tone for the rest of the album’s unconventional and contemplative themes. “Glow,” arguably the most lighthearted and upbeat song on the album, describes inquisitive happiness as Lou asks, “Do I dare to feel this feeling?” A variety of instruments and technologically produced sounds combine to create an essence reminiscent of the “Wall of Sound,” perfect for blasting in your earbuds on a long, pensive walk.
“Dusk” is the purest love song on the album. The track goes through the motions of love and infatuation, stating that, “The world don’t matter” when Lou looks at her partner. Lou’s vocals are powerful, yet soft enough to allow the piano, drums and flute to shine through — no singular musical element dominates the others. “Mother’s Eyes” is one of the album’s deepest streams of consciousness, as Lou takes an intimate dive into her past and current romantic life. Lou is “Sitting in the corner of (her) mind” as she examines her emotions, coming to the familiar, relatable conclusion that sometimes the best course of action is to just ponder inside one’s own mind.
“How to Get Out of Love” contrasts the innocence and hopefulness of the first few tracks. The song describes the feeling of preparing for heartbreak — a heavy, heartfelt longing for release and clarity. We feel all of Lou’s sadness as she begs, “Be brutally honest to me,” a request to rip the emotional bandaid off. This song, like much of Lou’s music, combines the melodic melancholy of Phoebe Bridgers with the psychedelic dreaminess of Beach House, allowing listeners to find an ethereal comfort in Lou’s sadness.
The album reaches its climax with “Dirty Mouth,” a punk-inspired anthem encouraging listeners to be proud of themselves, their bodies and their dirty mouths. This song’s content offers a refreshing break from the rest of the album’s romantic pondering, standing out from songs that tend to blend together.
The album’s final, mournful songs’ similar messaging, pacing and content make them somewhat indistinguishable from one another and more forgetful than the first seven songs, but they are beautiful nonetheless. The closing song, “Lovesick,” picks up the pace and offers an optimistic yet cathartic take on lovesickness, breathing life back into the album.
Incorporating components of indie surf music with “sad gay girl” love songs, Glow is quintessentially 21st century. If you’re looking for 12 perfectly unique songs, this album may not be for you. But if you’re looking for a cohesive blend of sounds that will allow you to escape reality and enter your subconscious, this album could be your glowing pot of gold. Through its authentic style of self-reflection, Glow teaches us that perhaps the streams of consciousness in our notes apps can make for incredible albums.