Call it country songs to study too.
Genre-defying work is usually purposeful. A strident rebuke to radio stations, label obsessives and music critics/nerds (ahem). It’s the not-giving-a-fuck confidence of Death Grips, Holly Herndon and Young Fathers. But that indicates a certain amount of focus. Faye Webster doesn’t care about genre restrictions, but it comes from a sense of sleepy apathy.
The 21-year-old gained notoriety by working with the hedonistic jokers of Awful Records, including the ever-eyebrow raising rapper Father. But her love for honky-tonk came loud and clear through buzzing single “Is it Too Much to Ask” off her 2017 self-titled. It was a loopy, upbeat piece of country, like Kacey Musgraves on a shoe-string budget. And she keeps things low-key on Atlanta Millionaires Club. Perhaps too low-key. Despite the luxurious title, Webster cements herself as the south’s Princess of mope, daydreaming through sighing tunes that ruminate on heartbreak before falling asleep.
It appropriately it takes a bit to get going, like the first three songs are rousing the album from a nap. “Room Temperature,” “Right Side of My Neck” and “It Hurts Me Too” are Webster at her weakest, either repeating phrases into the ground (“Right Side”) or simply unable to give enough energy to the polished, plush instrumentation. The loose jazz feel of “Hurts Me Too” turns into a warbly nothing, but hints at what the rest of the album flourishes into. It’s similar to the sepia dusted croonings of Orville Peck, but looking for Muscle Shores backbone, like a blissed-out Meters. And once the album hits the sweet spot, it never looks back.
Faye channels Chet Baker, focusing on a sliver of her range to pour all her sorrow through. On highlight “Jonny” she sounds impossibly close to the mic, like our headphones are portals to her diary. When she croons, “Get over how my dog is my best friend” it feels like an almost too personal look into the fragmented thoughts that follow heartbreak. “I miss your shirt that didn’t fit right/ I wore it to sleep once or twice,” she sings, sounding like she can still remember the smell of that ratty shirt and sighing into the nostalgia.
Though the disco maximalism of Musgraves seems like the obvious parallel, what with the rap features and hedonism, Norah Jones’ dreamiest work is more apt. The trappings of Van Morrison float around, especially in the immaculately arranged horns and stirring strings that sneak in behind Webster’s croon. The woodsy funk of “Come to Atlanta” falls between a square dance and a seduction by meshing all of that and a surprisingly sexy flute solo. Even the steel pedal seems to blush. It’s not terribly surprising when Father makes an appearance. He’s about the perfect crossover man, thanks to his lazy flow and cheery apathy.
Call it country songs to study too. A few mis-hits aside, Atlanta Millionaires Club can be background grooves or the soundtrack to your next fling. All guided by Webster’s sleepy smile.