Truly shedding the skin of her 2010 breakthrough hit, Whip My Hair, WILLOW is back with an edgier sound and more contemplative outlook. Even in 2010, at the tender age of nine-years-old, there were glimmers of rebelliousness but perhaps no obvious indication that she would later dabble in angst-ridden pop punk. Enter 2021 WILLOW! Coming in at 26 mins and 11 songs in total – meagre numbers even by the genre’s standard – WILLOW’s Lately I Feel Everything had to be nothing short of special. The final product is special with a small ‘s’.
Lyrically vulnerable and sincere is often the prerequisite of pop punk, and Lately I Feel Everything is no exception. It’s a brave endeavour, and much of the album is genuinely on point, if a little disjointed. Where this record triumphs is in WILLOW’s continuation of sound development. Lately I feel Everything is not just a random pop punk album by a random pop punk artist; given her 2020 album, Anxiety, this a progression. WILLOW is able to utilise the pop punk sound to add depth her own sound.
Opener, Transparent Soul, sets the tone of the album. Calling upon the ever-so-collaborative Travis Barker, the offering is an early noughties Blink 182-sounding number but with a more rambunctious edginess. Perhaps leaning more towards Paramore, Transparent Soul provides a pop punk masterclass. After a brief interlude with track, F**k You, arrives the ominously titled, Gaslight. Musically, Gaslight is a happy-go-lucky, pretty little ditty with an important message. A fine example of WILLOW embarking on a pop punk direction, whilst also ensuring the listener finds it challenging to draw comparisons with any of the genre’s forefathers.
Don’t Save Me is simply fantastic! From the staccato annunciation of the verses, to the riptide riff, this is the standout track of Lately I Feel Everything. Naïve is similarly fantastic. It’s not the music that carries it, but the vocal performance that directs success. Regardless of reverb, the vocal output is robust and haunting; such a chill is sent down the spine, the listener will be left with frostbite.
The album’s lead single, Lipstick, is a venture in originality within the somewhat rigid parameters of the pop punk sound; It’s tonally darker in sound than most pop punk records, however. The exceptional vocals and catchy lyrical hooks make Lipstick a memorable album effort.
Every album has its cannon fodder, right? Well, the awkwardness is bestowed upon 4ever, and XTRA – they are terrible! Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. GROW is an American Pie prom night song, accompanied by a showstopper collaboration consisting Avril Lavigne and Travis Barker. Quite the party guest list – the guests just forgot to bring the playlist. Not Avril Lavigne’s finest hour, of which there are many to choose from. Lyrically, the song is positive but it’s sound is too teeny-bopper to be taken seriously.
Album closer, !BREAKOUT! is punchy and angry. The riff is more Led Zeppelin or Rage Against The Machine than Blink-182 or Sum 41, but that is by no means a bad thing. It exudes frantic urgency, and emits more energy than the latest sugar-laden, caffeine-saturated energy drink, or better yet, a Class A drug. A great way to end an album.
Overall, the album stumbles and stutters at times, but when was the last time you heard a faultless album? They are rarer than a pig with propellers! There are hundreds of pop punk albums that sound one hundred times worse than Lately I feel Everything. WILLOW’s first pop punk endeavour successfully captures modern youth anxieties in an eardrum satisfying manner. As a first venture into a new genre, WILLOW should not be overlooked as a viable artist within a fading niche.