From indie darling to rising superstar, Gracie Abrams has done more than most in the years leading up to her debut LP. In 2019, the Los Angeles-born singer-songwriter released her debut single “Mean It.” Since then, she’s headlined her own tour spanning North America and the UK, followed by a supporting gig for Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” tour in 2022 and a spot on Taylor Swift’s record-breaking “The Eras Tour,” slated to begin in March 2023. All that is to say, the singer has been quite busy — yet on Good Riddance, Abrams slows things down for a moody and quietly atmospheric debut effort.
Abrams sets the tone accordingly with opening track “Best,” a slow-moving ballad that seems to establish the relationship which inspired much of Good Riddance, singing, “I never was the best to you.” This, along with the accompanying number “I Know It Won’t Work,” both share the fingerprint of producer Aaron Dessner, whose mainstream break for his work on Swift’s twin LPs Folklore and Evermore has clearly informed the sound on Good Riddance. Slow-burning instrumentation and raw, tender lyricism reflect in these tracks and carry on throughout Abrams’ debut.
“Full Machine” picks up the pace ever so slightly for a jagged pop-adjacent cut centered on the shortcomings Abrams sees in herself. Its weighty yet delicate production uplifts Abrams’ soft and affectionate delivery, making it an immediate standout on the record. The fried synths and looming drums refer to much of Dessner’s work with both Swift and his own band The National, but Abrams nevertheless makes the song her own through touching lyrics and her signature breathy vocals, heightening an otherwise-done-before sound. Here, listeners are introduced to the kind of clever and observant songwriting style that made Abrams huge in the indie scene; lines like “I’m a shameless caller/ You’re a full machine” smartly reflect Abrams’ vision of herself and a foundational crack in the relationship.
Though “I Should Hate You” is a noteworthy acoustic moment, the midway stretch of Good Riddance often feels like a lot of the same. Sonically and vocally there are few risks taken, but strong writing by Abrams and Dessner keep the listener tuned in to all that the record has to say. “Amelie” is catchy and moving, carried by Abrams’ uncanny ability to inflect her voice in the most heartbreaking manner. An even more interesting track, “Difficult” introduces themes surrounding family and the growing pains of adulthood, powerfully executed and undeniably memorable.
The lasting touch of “Difficult” makes one yearn for further exploration of its fascinating themes, which are so effectively conveyed by Abrams, though unfortunately lacking in the larger picture painted by this project. Still, the final act of Good Riddance holds intrigue for the captivating atmosphere Abrams’ music so effortlessly cultivates.
“This Is What the Drugs Are For” fully submerges Abrams in the folk sound, though a bit too similarly to Swift’s own collaborations with Dessner. The record slows entirely from this point forward, putting instrumentation in the background to showcase Abrams’ darkly emotive vocals and thoughtful lyricism. Though “Fault Line” and “The Blue” are great examples of this, “Right Now” is the opus that arrests listeners for the final minutes of Good Riddance. It beautifully calls back to the coming-of-age turmoil of “Difficult” in various touching instances, such as “Am I losin’ my family/ Every minute I’m gone?” It summarizes, in ravishing poetry, everything outstanding about this poignant LP.
Though not every moment soars like those in “Difficult” or “Right Now,” there’s no lack of charm in the work that Abrams and Dessner have put forth. The album’s perspective on adulthood and romance is rare and necessary, not to mention universal and utterly timeless. Sometimes Good Riddance draws too heavily upon its influences, but it nevertheless remains singular in sound and ambition — both of which are touching and impactful throughout. Abrams has successfully established herself as a must-hear voice in the indie crowd and will likely have no trouble making Good Riddance a record that people will remember, no matter how lengthy her career.