New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: Lizzy McAlpine’s ‘Older’ is an ode to coming-of-age stories

Lizzy McAlpine’s “Older” is the musical equivalent of being an anxious 20-year-old.
Anna Baird-Hassell
American singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine released her third studio album, “Older,” on April 5, 2024. (Anna Baird-Hassell for WSN)

In her third studio album, “Older,” American singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine expertly crafted a hauntingly raw collection of 14 songs — each describing the passage of time, uncertainty and, as per the title, the reality of growing up. McAlpine brilliantly voices the struggles of young people placing undue pressure on themselves to have life all figured out.

“Older” is coming nearly two years to the day since McAlpine’s previous album, “five seconds flat,” which gained strong traction for its vivid lyricism and distinctive sound. Given the popularity of “five seconds flat” with “ceilings” and “doomsday,” it’s surprising to hear the album’s sound, which is more mellow and piano-based compared to her previous work. However, it’s more similar to McAlpine’s earlier albums and EPs, and it is also, according to McAlpine herself, more authentic to her own voice and vision.

“[‘five seconds flat’] to me didn’t feel right in my soul,” McAlpine said in an interview on The Zach Sang Show. “I was trying to sound like a lot of different people. I was taking references … of what everyone thought was cool at the time and then trying to put all of that into one album and none of it was me.”

McAlpine notoriously writes hard-hitting lyrics that are seemingly broad, while somehow also being specific enough to feel like they were taken straight from someone’s diary. For example, in “Drunk, Running,” McAlpine lyrics read the following: “No one stops me / Nobody takes you from my hand / Even (Even) when you (When you) / break your leg drunk running.” This feels like such a specific story of a drunken mishap, yet also speaks to the common experience of returning to a person or situation that you know to be dangerous for you and wishing someone could help you stop. McAlpine’s cathartic, although often painful, lyrics emanate a haunting atmosphere in a screaming-them-in-the-car way and a crying-in-the-park sort of manner.

The album’s lyrics also explore a tumultuous relationship with self worth and the difficulty of believing in deserving good things and kind love. For example, in “Better Than This” she worries “What if I’m not a good person? / You always say that I am / But you don’t really know me at all now.” Self-sabotage and fear that you are not enough for the people you love are such central battles of growing up, and McAlpine communicates them strongly in this album.

McAlpine manages to stylistically create unexpected chord progressions to create an eerily beautiful sound. “Older” plays intensively with creating dissonance then resolving it, which is not only sonically interesting but also a metaphor for growing up: If you can push through the discomfort for long enough, it will clear up. Many of the songs feature a simpler, stripped-back instrumentation, making songs like “All Falls Down,” with its groovy bass lines, stand out as welcome surprises. McAlpine is a smart musician who is unafraid to take risks in her instrumentation, making her music, especially this album, all the more unique and interesting to listen to. By having no features on this album, McAlpine boldly claims her own art, a testament to the authenticity for which she has discussed searching.

In her Instagram post announcing the album, McAlpine said “this album took [her] three years to get right,” and she wants listeners to know she “did not compromise.” McAlpine’s pure vocals, raw lyricism and unique instrumentation culminate in a truly beautiful album. She so candidly explores getting older, toxic relationships that you stay in for the comfort, self worth and just trying to figure it all out.

Contact Lena Olson at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Anna Baird-Hassell
Anna Baird-Hassell, Copy Chief
Anna Baird-Hassell is a junior studying Sociology with a minor in Irish Studies. She is an at-home barista fond of hugs, meditation, speaking her limited Irish Gaelic and reviewing films on Letterboxd @abairdhassell. You can also find her on Instagram @annabairdhassell or email her at [email protected].

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