Laura Stevenson - The Big Freeze (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Laura Stevenson

The Big Freeze (2019)

don giovanni records

Let's just get this out the way: Laura Stevenson should be a household name by now. Her voice is angelic to say the least, and after Bomb The Music Industry!, to see what she's accomplishing as a songstress is nothing short of extraordinary. There's a magic and raw power to her voice, and the thing is, it's so subtle -- not overpowering at all and you can't help but wonder exactly what's the mystique about when you needle down into it. Well, The Big Freeze threads the needle as the most stripped down piece of work to date from her, and it does its best to reveal exactly what this secret is.

Firstly, this album's scrubbed the indie/punk/rock and roll tones that draped the likes of Cocksure and Wheel. I mean, from the former three years ago you could tell she was heading in an airy, folky direction and this record is just that. Concept-wise, she's writing and singing about the world freezing over and in these frigid last days, humanity knows nothing but death. And it's an interesting approach -- so much more melancholic than the upbeat optimism I usually associate with her (and that comes a lot from seeing her bubbly, fizzy and energetic live performances). But this here, it's apocalyptic, dreary and isolated. The thing is, her desolate poems may be her best-written material to date, so in terms of being a haunted novel, you're in for a trip.

Music-wise, it's understandable why she shapes most of the album as slow burners, to fit the theme of what she's trying to convey. We get warm tracks here and there as per "Lay Back, Arms Out" as an opener, but right after that, "Value Inn" and "Living Room, NY" proceed to immediately take you down a deep, dark rabbit hole. One with no light at the end of the tunnel. And to illustrate this musically, Laura focuses on slow piano keys, acoustics, organs and just about anything that keeps the record as minimalist as possible. Which works wonders for those experiencing her voice, but I admit I missed the jangly, poppy tunes.

"Hum" has a wedding feel to it, and while the aesthetic picks up a bit on "Low Slow" the overall vibe of the album just feels a bit monotone at times. But don't get me wrong, the worst Laura Stevenson is way better than 90% of the crap on the radio today. And that's testament to how good and how golden she really is. Think of this as something for fans of Sufjan Stevens, and then decide if you want to go all in. But make no mistake, this bleak and grim outlook on life may not be for me personally right now as I've buried quite a few relatives and battled some emotional distress/depression over the last year... which means that maybe in a few months time when I revisit this, it may just get a half-star or one more extra. The point is: take time and let it soak in. It's a brutal listen and not for everyone, but still it's lightning in a bottle. Let's be real, Laura can't do much wrong even if she wanted to.