Alice Phoebe Lou

Sometimes the complications of love can wrench your chest open, creating a chasm that grows wider and wider until you almost want to rip your heart out. In her new album Glow, Alice Phoebe Lou takes the experience of love down to its simplest modes of existence. Instead of trying to make it an intellectual, emotional mountain, she simply strives to connect with the listener. 

Her tape-recorded, unclassifiable alternative sound has a glow of its own, using mellow keys and echoing guitars to submerge the listener. You might call it “mood music,” or even say it has “ambience” with “an evening feel.” The record feels like getting out of the bath as a small child and scrubbing yourself off with a fresh towel. There is none of the harried efficiency of adult life.

If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to float above the clouds, Lou allows you to on tracks like “Heavy / / Light As Air.” She takes all the cheesiness out and keeps the sincerity. The album finds its feet and grounds itself with “Only When I” and “Dusk,” while reaching into the air with “Velvet Mood,” wriggling and giggling on “Dirty Mouth” and dreaming on “Lover / / Over The Moon.” It is an absolute full-body experience.

Indeed, the album feels like an embrace, reminding you with its languidness to take the time to connect with your physical senses. A hand cupping someone’s cheek, legs thrown in a tangle on the grass, a head in someone’s lap — there are so many ways to touch and be touched by those we love. “Heavy / / Light As Air” acknowledges the feeling of love itself. The title suggests how easy it is and yet how much it fills you. “How beautiful to really care,” she sings — a lyric that lives with you for quite some time.

The best love is rooted in friendship. Glow easily fills this role, providing a quiet accompaniment to moments both happy and heartbroken. “Dusk,” a love song about a woman, is quiet and easy, with an endearing music video that emphasizes the importance of comfort in proximity. Trusting someone to breathe the same air, letting your eyes close while they lie next to you — these little acts of physical trust are inextricably linked to allowing someone to gather you in their hands. 

“Lover / / Over The Moon” continues this easy intimacy, serving as a stand-out track that observes the little moments of love. Falling in love is about noticing every part of a person — looking into someone’s eyes and noticing flecks of gold among the blue that you hadn’t noticed before, seeing the little changes in their expression when they notice something new around them or haven’t done something in quite the way they wanted to. Gently, reluctantly, Lou admits to this, singing, “When you were dreaming I looked in, I saw everything / I saw fresh new grass, that’s growin’, it’s growin’ /  You’ve got a big big heart, it’s showin’, it’s showin’.”

This comfort is hard-won; fear is present. In “How to Get out of Love,” Lou begs her lover to let her know now if they don’t return her feelings, asking her to “be brutally honest” as the tune opens. And yet, the entire album only builds up to love, traveling higher and higher. We aren’t jolted by a hard landing; there are no consequences. There is only longing, and the pleasure that comes when that longing is fulfilled.

Nevertheless, Lou has fallen into a pattern that, unfortunately, is not uncommon for her: The songs are all quite similar. The album as a whole certainly shows her growth as an artist, as it is a wholly different sound and experience than her previous work. But the songs themselves aren’t always entirely distinguishable from the next. Lou understands the feeling put into music, but a bit more learning on the technical side of her instrument might take her music to the next level. For now, though, what she gives us already fuses to something deep inside of each listener, and it is certainly enough.

Glow is rife with tape-distorted, murmured vocals, gently unintrusive keys and breathy atmosphere. It leaves you with the fresh déjà vu of familiar love, a memory you’ve already made, a song you’ve already heard. You could almost touch your fingers to it, trying to recall. 

Alice Phoebe Lou’s impact doesn’t come from her instrumental arrangements nor her simple lyrics — rather, it comes from the whole she makes from these parts. She finds something larger than herself in the deliverance of her music: some universal emotions to tap into. Lucky for us, she is kind enough to help us do the same.

Daily Arts Writer Fia Kaminski can be reached at fiakamin@umich.edu.