It’s hard to read music news publications without running into articles discussing “the death of rock and roll.” This endless stream of pieces come again as genres like pop and hip-hop dominate the current musical landscape. As much as I detest hearing purely speculative news like this, I cannot help but agree with this sentiment.
There are numerous reasons why rock’s popularity has dipped, but one primary reason is the lack of relatability the genre has with younger music fans. Rock is a genre obsessed with its past, and many of the most popular rock bands have been around for at least a decade (The Killers, Fall Out Boy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.). Today’s rock musicians rarely seem to focus on the problems facing young people, the demographic that ultimately determines what is popular.
Luckily, one artist has released an album that tackles a very real phenomenon facing many young people — the quarter-life crisis. Her name is Alex Lahey.
With her debut record, “I Love You Like a Brother,” Lahey, a singer-songwriter hailing from Australia, crafts self-described “emo-bangers” that deal with all aspects of post-college life. Her relatively simple songs focus on what makes a rock track so addicting: catchy hooks, slick guitars and deep emotions weighted in punchy beats. It’s this uncomplicated formula that makes the music so infectious.
All these elements come together on the opening track, “Every Day’s the Weekend.” It all kicks off with a fantastically punk-influenced opening guitar that sets the mood for the whole track.
At first listen, it sounds like another innocent and angst-ridden pop punk track. However, it proves far more complicated: Lahey sings about the nascent stages of love, trying to convince the other person to take a chance on a more serious relationship:
“My hands are cold, but my feet are not/Are you leaving me, or have you just forgot?/Because in the end, we were never friends but more,” she sings.
In fact, many tracks on the album deal directly with personal relationships. Yet she does this from multiple perspectives, such as breakups on “Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder” and secret crushes on “I Want U.” If you are looking for an album that deals with love, no matter where you find yourself, “I Love You Like a Brother” has something to offer.
Lahey’s songs contain a running theme of finding oneself at a crossroads, unsure of what to do. This is a situation every student is confronted with at some point. Lahey, herself a college dropout, reflects on this situation frequently, especially on “There’s No Money,” a relatable song for anyone strapped for cash (aka every college student).
Touching and poignant, the track sees Lahey yearning for some purpose or stability, anything to give her life direction.
The raw emotion is accompanied by instrumentation filled with harmonious vocal layers certain to make you shed a few tears. Finishing off the record, the track fittingly finds Lahey unsure of what will come next.
Like any respectable singer-songwriter album, “I Love You Like a Brother” paints a personal image of the mindset of the artist. In Lahey’s case, we get a picture of a woman confronted by the crushing weight of adulthood, struggling to adapt her adolescent personality with an unforgiving world. It’s hardly revolutionary, but one would be hard-pressed to find someone who did not face a similar experience.
While I found every track touching in its own way, none impacted me quite like “I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself.” It deals with the overdone rom-com cliché of the person whose life becomes wrecked after a breakup: they don’t bathe, never clean and spend their days accompanied by TV and tubs of ice cream.
In the movies, this character solves the problem by finally winning the love of the person that caused them so much pain. Lahey, on the other hand, seems to realize the negative aspects of the person that led to so much self-hate.
“Is this blood on my hands or just wine?/I find I’m thinking ’bout you nearly all of the time,” she sings. “I make up these excuses for the reasons we should meet/Is this an addiction or is this just repeat?”
Lahey sings with a mixture of regret, sadness and anger. However, she never sounds bitter. She sings about the experience to serve as a lesson for the future, not as a convenient segue to put herself in the same mess.
While not breaking any boundaries instrumentally, Lahey manages to create a completely honest and tangible piece of punk pop. Her tales of relationship, financial and career struggles resonate with a younger demographic that finds themselves unable to relate personally with many up and coming rock musicians.
Lahey does this in much the same way as artists like Courtney Barnett and Car Seat Headrest, and it’s this reason that both artists have found success in recent years. Hopefully, the same success can happen for Lahey, because she is a captivating artist more than deserving of it.
Kyle Land is a music writer for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Kyleoftheland.