Lily McQueen – A dazzling display of the lessons that are learnt from heartbreak

Just two years after the release of her first EP, pop starlet Lily McQueen emerges once more with Electric Love, a debut album brimming with sugary beats, heavy emotions and an all round sophisticated tone.

The relatively new artist strings all nine tracks together with the motifs of romantic breakups, the inevitable heartbreak that follows, and the eventual closure that lost love can result in.

These are indeed timeless themes, as each listener will no doubt be able to identify their own experiences with each song narrative. Thematically, the album is even more pertinent because of the way in which McQueen’s lyrics relate to the seemingly throwaway culture of modern romance that many young adult listeners will have faced.

But McQueen has been cautious not to exaggerate the emotional ache of heartbreak; delivering her stories in the form of glittery, upbeat pop ballads, she juxtaposes the content and sound of her songs nicely. Sonically, her work resembles the effervescence of music produced by mid-’80s acts like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.  To put McQueen’s new album in a contemporary context, it’s somewhere between the sweet yearning of Grimes’s work and the feminist punch of a Haim song.

Kicking off with the self-affirming ‘You’re Not Ready For My Love’, the album begins with the hopeful message that heartbreak leads to self-discovery. Soft vocals and a synth-soaked backdrop contrast beautifully, before a collocation of ‘80s electro synth notes, clean guitar riffs and dramatic drumming kicks in, and the promise of punk-fuelled pop arrives.

Chasing Your Love’ digresses slightly from this initial punky feel, delivering a more upbeat, pop-infused sound. The thick fabric of electro beats and high-pitched synth-sounds that form the foundation of the song are outshone by McQueen’s pristine vocals, whilst the electro-sound that runs throughout balances the wistful lyrics perfectly. Introducing a rockier edge to the album, ‘Say Something’ is fuelled by an electrifying cacophony of guitar riffs that juxtapose against the gorgeous melody of the singer’s voice.

‘I Can’t Get It Right With You’ is the most fervent example of McQueen’s song writing, which is amplified by the collation of synth and electro sounds. Light synth notes fall on the piece like luminous drops of ‘80s pop sound bites, rendering the song as nothing less than beautiful. The ambience that introduces ‘Let Go’ deviates from the punch packed by the previous track before abruptly leaping  into the narrative of self-discovery that is promised at the beginning of the album. The use of well spaced-out, rocky guitar riffs propels the album even further into the realms of punky, kick-ass pop, whilst the electro aspects of the track sustain the poppy tone introduced in ‘Chasing Your Love’.

Much like the aforementioned track, ‘Rhythm Of My Heart’ is an impeccable emulation of the dreamy ‘80s dance anthem. The contagious refrain ‘I can’t stop the rhythm of my heart’ captures the desperation of adolescent lust simply and succinctly, exemplifying McQueen’s talent as a wordsmith. Similarly, the rawness of emotion conveyed  in ‘Easy Way Out’ by the line ‘Whenever you hold me close, I wish that I could be alone’ highlights the honesty of McQueen’s portrayal of heartbreak.

The songwriter explores her chosen theme extensively, leaving no aspect of declining romance untouched. Such an intense thematic reflection denotes her talent as not only a lyricist, but also as a musical auteur. Whilst ‘Stand Down’ sounds more reminiscent of ‘90s dance music with the occasional appearance of electric guitars, its lyrics reinforce the overarching message that young love is challenging.  Culminating in a blend of organ playing, intricate guitar sounds and animated drumming, it stands as the most musically diverse piece of the album.

The titular track ‘Electric Love’ concludes the album wonderfully. Soft singing, summery guitar riffs and ambient synths fuse together to form a piece that creates an image of  adolescent love to which most young adult listeners can relate.

An immersive fusion of pop, rock and gut feeling, Electric Love is both an authentic and sincere depiction of adolescent heartbreak.

Beth Andralojc

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