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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Faye Webster releases ‘Underdressed at the Symphony’

Webster returns with an unexpected exploration of genre and technique in her latest release
Faye Webster releases ‘Underdressed at the Symphony’
Webster’s Bandcamp

Faye Webster released “Underdressed at the Symphony” on March 1. The 10-track LP illustrates Webster’s newly embarked stylistic investigation by emphasizing experimentation and instrumentation rather than her clever lyricism.

In 2013, at 16 years old, Webster released “Run and Tell,” a wistful and poetic folk album. Four years later, she unveiled her country-infused self-titled album, followed by the twangy “Atlanta Millionaires Club” in 2019 and the iconic “I Know I’m Funny Haha” in 2021. In “Underdressed at the Symphony,” Webster makes her much-anticipated return following a three-year hiatus, embracing a more refined style. While retaining her wily flow, Webster elevates her artistic flair by delving into variegated stylistic techniques. Each song on the album serves as an exploration into new musical territories.

The album art for “Underdressed at the Symphony” features Webster in a casual white t-shirt standing out amongst a closet full of elegant blue garments, perfectly capturing Webster’s calm and composed style. The album features several musicians accompanying Webster and is co-produced by Drew Vandenberg and Webster herself. In a New York Times report on Webster and her new album, it is reported that “She banged out most of the album in a 10-day stretch at Sonic Ranch, a complex in El Paso surrounded by pecan orchards.”

Kicking off with a delicate serenade, the opening track of “Underdressed at the Symphony,” titled “Thinking About You,” revamps Webster’s rustic aesthetic. The track boasts detailed production guided by the intricate musical arrangements of her band, evoking the serene ambiance of a jam session. In the latter leg of the track, the chorus becomes repetitive, with Webster echoing “Thinking about you” over and over again.

“But Not Kiss” initiates a notable shift from the previous track with its introduction of a warm guitar progression interchanging with a flourishing ensemble of instruments. Throughout the track, the ensemble intermittently rises and falls, guided by a pedal steel and accentuated by Webster’s echoing of “yeah, yeah.” The song shies away from sentimental reflection following Webster’s heartbreak, yet the music speaks for itself thanks to its blossoming notes of reminiscence.

The fourth track of the album, “Lego Ring” features an unexpected collaboration with Lil Yachty. But, according to an article from The Georgetown Voice, the unlikely duo actually traces back to their childhood as Webster and Lil Yachty were friends in middle school, before drifting apart as adults. This trippy song features a captivating looping bass-oriented progression. Lil Yatchy’s auto-tuned voice harmonizes shockingly well with Webster’s clear tone. The song moves between being a fast-paced song and a decelerated buildup. The duo’s lighthearted lyrics paint a colorful world of childlike wonder. “Lego Ring” serves as a brief interlude, providing a departure from the breakup theme that appears throughout the rest of the album.

“He Loves Me Yeah!” similarly shifts up the tone of the album. Following each of Webster’s verses is an auto-tuned emphasis on the last syllable and distinct bursts of noise. These playful passages echo in the audience’s ears. The track shows a heightened level of exploration with Webster’s vocals, a departure from the earlier releases where her voice remained untouched and pristine.

“eBay Purchase History” feels as if it falls back to Webster’s roots with visionary and comfortable lyrics accompanied by elaborate guitar picking and layers of instrumentation, such as a ratcheting güiro.

The title track calls back to Webster’s musical origins, reintroducing her signature elements of pedal steel and her unmistakable voice. These more classic components serve as conduits for self-reflection, allowing Webster to contemplate her bygone relationship. Around the song’s midway point, a celestial orchestral arrangement unfolds, capturing the audience’s attention and redirecting the focus back to the music. This ethereal addition helps to create a multifaceted and engaging auditory experience.

“Underdressed at the Symphony” features a repetitive array of lyricism, but the key component is Webster’s purely musical encapsulation of her feelings. Throughout the album, she faces challenges. In “Wanna Quit all the Time” creates boredom through repetitive pedal steel guitar and lackluster lyrics, while “Feeling Good Today” features uninspiring auto-tuned lyricism, falling short of the desired serenity. Both songs struggle to captivate and showcase the artist’s usual prowess. In its entirety, the album’s instrumentation is tranquil and well-orchestrated, emphasizing Webster’s reserved and composed style. However, some choruses become overly familiar, leading to a monotonous whole.

“Underdressed at the Symphony” is a chilled-out album that marks Webster’s subtle departure out of her comfort zone. Balancing experimentation and her trademark sly flow, the album serves as a breakup narrative where Webster opts for instrumental expression over explicit emotional revelation. Notoriously averse to attention as mentioned in the New York Times report, Webster’s focus shifts from her voice to immersive jam sessions, embodying a mellower and more inward-looking approach in the breakup-themed release.

Faye Webster will be playing at Suffolk Downs in Boston on July 27.

Crissy Saucier can be reached at [email protected].

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