Faye Webster Underdressed at the Symphony Review: The Pleasure of Discomfort

The singer finds pleasure in the discomfort of feeling like she doesn’t belong.

Faye Webster, Underdressed at the Symphony
Photo: Michael Tyrone Delaney

When singer-songwriter Faye Webster needs an escape, she seeks it at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Her attendance is usually a last-minute decision—hence being underdressed, per the title of her fifth studio album, Underdressed at the Symphony.

“I’m asleep in the moment you’re holding my head/But I want to remember I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” Webster mutters on the opening track, “Thinking About You.” She details her most intimate experiences with others in this manner throughout the album, finding herself seeking them out but lacking the desire to fully engage with them.

Similarly, “But Not Kiss” places Webster, who otherwise might seem uncertain about what she wants, in an extremely specific form of longing: “I want to see you in my dreams but then forget/We’re meant to be but not yet/You’re all that I have but can’t get.” She knows what she wants, even as she sits on the fence between desire and detachment.

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Webster delivers these poignant revelations in the most curt and matter-of-fact way possible on Underdressed at the Symphony. The 90-second “Feeling Good Today,” for one, is a succinct account of Webster’s plans on a random day, and her alternately indifferent and melancholic vocals make the minutiae of her daily life feel all too mundane—and relatable.

What Webster lacks in vocal variation, she makes up for with Auto-Tune and other affectations across Underdressed at the Symphony. She first introduces a vocoder on “Lego Ring,” adopting the vocal style of guest Lil Yachty. She sprinkles similar effects into other songs, sometimes to create a chorused vocal to underscore the meaning behind her lyrics (on “eBay Purchase History” and the title track) or to generate a synthetic quality (on “Feeling Good Today”).

The real magic of the album, though, can be found in its instrumentation. At the halfway point of “Wanna Quit All the Time,” Webster stops singing, luxuriating in a sonic dreamstate of twinkling electric piano, twangy pedal steel, and sparse fingerpicked guitar. Elsewhere, the five-minute “Lifetime” is an atmospheric slow burner in which Webster lazily repeats “in a lifetime” over a steady R&B groove. Not content to be tied to a single genre, location, or mood, Webster finds pleasure in the discomfort of feeling like she doesn’t belong.

Score: 
 Label: Secretly Canadian  Release Date: March 1, 2024  Buy: Amazon

Dana Poland

Dana Poland is a music writer with a love for anything indie and punk. She’s a recent graduate of the College of William & Mary and also writes for Post-Trash.

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