It’s not often you find a song and feel the truth of it. Imagine then, listening to an entire album that resonates with a series of well spun tales. This is Eliza Spear’s debut album, ‘Right Now, It’s Like This’. It’s hard to believe that it’s a debut, such is its depth and maturity. Eliza says
‘I see this record as a love letter to my inner child. I wonder who you’ll see.’
Let’s find out shall we?
Though only 23, the Brooklyn based songstress has been honing her craft since the tender age of 13, writing songs and saving babysitting money to record an EP at 14, and securing her first gigs in the tough-to-crack LA scene. And it’s not just hard work, but an inborn talent to spin stories into songs that makes Eliza Spear so special. She weaves her extraordinary voice with music and allows us to glimpse into the personal with her lyrics.
Music under the microscope
The album opens with a very intimate song, Mother. It’s a short but emotional glimpse into the growth, understanding and acceptance of our most intimate personal relationships, and sets the tone for the album. Spear is not afraid to bare her soul, and uses not only words but her vocals to tell the story. It’s an impressive gift and one that she utilises well throughout the album.
A quirky little tune, ‘Money for a Maybe’ captured my attention with a vocal and the production that is slightly left of centre in relation to the rest of the album. It’s the story of that continual gamble a musician faces, the violin perfectly eliciting the imagery of walking a tightrope between fear of failure or rejection or as Spear explains
“… as I push through the artist journey, not fully knowing where I’m running, but knowing I’m on the right path”.
The title song follows, ‘Right Now, It’s Like This’, and immediately I like the slow build of the song and the Americana/country feel the pedal steel offers. It could be the perfect country song, with the angst built in, but Spear imbues the song with her distinctive feel and avoids country cliche, instead making it a song with depth and varying colours. It’s an almost perfect metaphor for her album, depth and variety, and worthy of carrying the title torch.
‘Tripping’ is full of the euphoria of a perfect moment, a date as it turns out. Eliza says she was
“mainly focusing on how I felt like a little kid,” which made the final lyric, and sums up the theme of the song”
It does capture a childlike feeling and is so catchy I often find myself humming the tune, catching lyrics here and there, or just the backing ‘ooh oohs’ even.
Another favourite is ‘Damn, I Forgot I was Lonely’, a reflective look at being caught out in ones’ loneliness, at being vulnerable, delivered in a disarmingly upbeat way. ‘Lucky Lucy’ is another example of Spear’s talent for hooking you in with upbeat melodies and vocals, and then you hitting you with the weight and sadness behind the lyrics.
The album closes with ‘Halfwit’ and this is probably my favourite song on the album. It opens with heart wrenching violin, and continues the melancholic feel with Spears’ soft vocals and melodic acoustic guitar. Eliza says about the song:
“I ran from the sadder parts of myself in attempt to be this idolized version of myself throughout my late teens. I wanted to be cool, to be the girl that was chill and mature and put together. I wrote Halfwit in attempt to apologize to the parts of myself that I had silenced, the parts of me that were “screaming,” just asking to get a word in. Halfwit is a reflection on what could’ve been different if I had listened to the parts of myself that I labeled as unattractive, as well as a nod to making an active effort to change this moving forward.”
Halfwit is very weighty stuff, and beautifully rendered. It’s a fitting close to the album, and indeed according to Eliza , brings the album full circle, back to ‘I am my own Mother, I hold who I once was’, Eliza musically embracing and comforting her younger self.
Influence and Individuality
There are hints of Joni Mitchell in her songs, and the pop/country/americana vibe throughout the album is reminiscent of Brandi Carlile, but Eliza’s songs also have uncommon qualities that set her apart from musical peers and heroines. Although, in an unlikely comparison, I can see parallels with the late Justin Townes Earle. Not so much in their sound (though they both embrace their own version of Americana) but it is in the unique way they view a story and cut to the truth, and then construct a song from it that I see similarities. From the practical take on heartbreak and loss in the title track, to an upbeat way of confronting her own vulnerability in ‘Damn I Forgot I Was Lonely‘ or the confessional angst of ‘Halfwit‘, Eliza has a way of expressing a song in a way that is uniquely her own.
Who is Eliza?
You already got a small peek of Eliza’s musical beginnings earlier, so what about now?
She is currently based in Brooklyn, New York and is focused on bringing her music to the people, and indeed the people to her music. Eliza passes out QR codes encouraging people to attend events, busks for queue lines and hosts intimate soirees in bookstores. In 2021 she spent the summer travelling cross-country on the ‘Can I Play In Your Backyard?’ tour, raising funds to produce her debut album, and continuing her ability to intimately connect to her audience in diverse ways. Eliza’s tenacity and determination to bring her music to the world, and pursue new audience relationships will doubtless provide her with rich material for future albums.
I’ve taken an uncommonly long time to deliver this review, which is unforgivable I know. As a music lover though, I’m unrepentant, because that time lapse has allowed me to fall even deeper in love with this album. It says a lot when no fewer than four songs are on my ‘current obsessions’ playlist. That’s a lot for any artist, believe me, and they are in very deserving company!
So to answer that question posed at the top the review, who did I see in this album?
Well, a couple of songs hit home and even had me starting a long overdue conversation with my younger self (Halfwit, Mother) and I could certainly see myself in Tripping, recounting giddy feelings of bliss.
In relation to Eliza herself, that’s easy…a musician who has a gift for weaving life stories into poetry and music, all sung with a voice that evinces both strength and vulnerability. I see an artist who has wrought a debut album that delivers on a promise, not least being one of even greater things to come. And I for one, can’t wait.