Singer-Songwriter Elizabeth Owens' Debut Album is a Folk-Rock Fairytale
We’ve all been battered by the mirror’s angry, shaking fist. We’ve all felt trapped by a past that wouldn’t let us go. We’ve all struggled at times with what it means to share our soul in a world that doesn’t seem like it wants us to.
These heart-heavy themes are the basis for Elizabeth Owens’ debut album, Coming Of Age, a concept album loosely projecting a fairytale narrative about a princess’ fight to find herself. On their first full-length release, the Richmond singer-songwriter tackles a genre-bending hour of experimental entrées into folk-rock, psychedelia, jazz interludes, and more. The result is a dazzling mish-mash of musical talent held together by the thin string of a fairytale.
We asked Liz to tell us a little about the record and here’s what they had to say about it:
Coming Of Age opens with “5AM,” a discordant melange of the types of sounds and tones we’ll become familiar with as the record goes on — the warbling, carnival fuzz of cacophony leads into an eerie, ambient arrangement that leads into a Latin-flavored trill. The instrumental opener is followed by “Coming,” our first introduction to Liz’s almost theatrical voice, deep and haunting. Among their voice swirl more multi-instrumental question marks, each element of the composition growing with urgency and gaining energy. It’s a dizzying track running the gamut of sound, similar to its predecessor. “I Long” is next and it’s already the standout of the record — it’s almost unbearably lovely, led by the rapid-fire strum of acoustic guitar and Liz’s gorgeous wisp of a voice. Sparkles and shimmers of percussion rise up every once in a while in fleeting bursts and the instrumental interlude is so flavorful — but subtle too. It’s the type of ballad you might hear on a Broadway soundtrack, stunning in its quiet dignity and soft with an ache. This is what Liz accomplishes so well — they’ve integrated a theatrical component of sorts, weaving little reminders of their thespian talent across the record.
On “You’ll See,” we get a more traditionally lounge-style track complete with vibrating keys and jazzy guitar, but Liz’s delivery is a desperate croon. “Sneaking Out” comes next, another instrumental. There’s something tender about it — maybe the underlying swell of strums that steadies the piece or those pained vocal echoes or the way each sound is layered among each other so hypnotically. The halfway point of Coming Of Age finds “Growing Pain / Interlude,” the longest track on the record at nearly eight minutes. It’s another remarkable example of theatrics, Liz’s versatile voice delivering some of their best lyrical work here among an arrangement that dabbles in both the dark crescendo of prog-rock and quietude of indie-folk. On “Ode To Joni,” things kick up happily for a sweet folk romp heavy with rolling guitar riffs. You can practically hear Liz smiling in this one — when they hit that falsetto towards the end, we learn that they’re still hiding morsels of talent from us.
“10 Years” follows, another lengthy song that sounds like early morning — like when the birds are trilling and the sun deigns to peek out from the clouds and there’s something special in the air that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s lovely, a sparkling slow-burn that moves in and out of surprising tones and sounds like it’s in the midst of transformation. On “Try,” a steady drum pad leads the piece before the gentle swell of guitar rolls in. The instrumentation here is beautiful with more than a little hint of melancholy courtesy of the operatic delivery Liz offers atop the tender melody. In the same vein as “I Long,” it’s an emotional, multi-layered piece unveiling endless tiers of unexpected talent. “Be Better,” one of the shortest tracks on the album, is punchy and powerful, an important self-reflection built on a smooth folk-rock arrangement. Coming Of Age ends with “The Light’s On,” the final aha! moment in which Liz’s songwriting is a shy gut-punch. They’re quiet about just how important each line is, but if you listen carefully, you’ll hear it. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the track and that’s okay — it’s a tender comedown, soft and sincere even when the arrangement grows to incorporate robust echoes and a greater sense of instrumental unity. It’s a gorgeous end to the record.
On Coming Of Age, Elizabeth Owens offers a collection of folk-rock gems so unlike anything you’ll hear today. There’s a real freshness and modesty to it, so wildly one-of-a-kind and worth thoughtful listening.
Itching for more music magic? We’ve got you covered. Follow The Music Mermaid below.
P.S. We’re selling stickers now! Get yours here.