Laura Stevenson gets under your skin with ‘The Big Freeze’

by Caitlyn Furler

Laura Stevenson gets under your skin with ‘The Big Freeze’

Laura Stevenson
The Big Freeze

Don Giovanni Records · March 29, 2019

Laura Stevenson gets under your skin with ‘The Big Freeze’

Laura Stevenson’s newly released album, The Big Freeze, carries with it all the power and strength of her soaring and tender vocals and the intimacy and thoughtfulness of gritty but warm instrumentation. From the first track, “Lay Back, Arms Out,” the combination of Stevenson’s vocals and the layered instrumentation creates a sense of hush within the listener’s mind. Listening feels like being immersed underwater and simultaneously taking a big gulp of fresh air.

Most of the tracks on the album feature dense layers of harmony, thoughtfully panned between the listener’s ears to create a sense of enclosure and proximity. In the best way, the harmonies and blend feel like they are getting right under your skin.

The mixing of the album feels honest and authentic; nothing is so polished that it becomes disconnected from its original source. Even the sliding of fingers on an acoustic guitar fretboard are allowed a place at the front of the listener’s attention. Somehow, though, moments like this aren’t a distraction but rather a validation of the perceived closeness of Stevenson’s vocals and lyrics.

The songs don’t feel pressure to explain themselves. Some of the lyrics are quite abstract, leaving the listener unsure whether the subjects of the lyrics are people or personified experiences or emotions. Depending on the listener, this will be a freedom or a frustration. Personally, I found this aspect of the songwriting to be slightly halting in the momentum of Stevenson’s vocals. Her vocals carry so much weight and dimension to them, with a haunting sense of urgency and declaration, that the listener wants to be fully engaged with the declarations and carried through the listening experience. Without the clear sense of subject matter and story, that momentum loses some of its satisfaction.

That’s not to say that the album lacks a story. However veiled that story may feel, it’s clear that the album has flow and is most truly enjoyed as a continuous body of work. This is evident through the track “Hawks” that, in itself, is quite short, however it flows so seamlessly into the next track, “Big Deep,” that the last word of the former becomes the first word of the latter.

The conviction of Stevenson’s vocals is best showcased through the track “Dermatillomania.” The song features lyrics that are more direct in terms of imagery and story. With poignant lines like, “You’re lucky that you died before I could sing” and “Now you’re exorcised from my mind,” the track embodies a sense of finding one’s voice and triumphing over the forces that would try to control or conceal one’s strength.

With Laura Stevenson’s intoxicating vocals, sweet harmonies and rich melodies, this album is definitely a recommended listen.