Normally she has a ukulele in her hand and a monologue at the ready. You may know her as the Strabane writer of ‘Goodbye, Good Luck‘, a song about stepping away from unrequited feelings. Now Lauren Bird has an album out, The Inbetween. It sounds like a series of journal entries; each song a page of unrefined thoughts and desires.
It opens with ‘Thing’s I’m Good At’ which is self-deprecating and coloured with her unique humour. Lauren bravely presents her flaws – the things she’s “good at” – and is unapologetic about her quirks and confusion. She’s a character we root for, someone we can relate to. She avoids the whiny factor by using comic skills, bright melodies, major keys and warm strings.
Each song is pleasing to the ear, orchestrated beautifully, with added harmonies. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you may find some positives here. She sings about being grateful when things are good, about love, about the pitfalls of being hard on yourself and the various frustrations of life. The words are raw and honest and particularly moving. The lyrics and subject matter are heavily inspired by the likes of Kate Nash and Alanis Morissette, whilst the music has classical elements.
The title track begins with the line, “Sometimes I wanna die, sometimes I wanna cry”. A line said often in passing is turned into a real confession. Lauren throws us into the deep end with the intensity of her thoughts, a surprising courage here. An introvert’s journey is illustrated in this song, and feeling like you’re in the “inbetween” stage of life.
‘Lacuna’ contains the most interesting lyric of the album: “I’m not scared of dying, I’m just terrified of never living at all”, while ‘The Way Out’ deals with how anxiety can limit your capacity for life. Lauren cleverly twists the saying “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”, admitting that she does in fact take the hit. She explores the irritation and grievance of not saying what’s on your mind in these tracks. Wanting things to be easier in life instead of having bad days and unpleasant memories is a theme.
‘Toxins’ also describes how Lauren is her own worst critic, discovering how she tears herself down more than anyone else ever would – a perfectionist problem. It has positive undertones as Lauren is conscious of this and sings about how she should treat herself more kindly. Perhaps this is a suggestion to us all.
‘Platonic Love Song #1’ is the most endearing song on the album. Stepping away from Lauren’s own struggles, she decides to be “alright” with a friend and describes not wanting to see them struggle. It’s a different kind of love song. “Life gets us down but at least we are here, we might not be tomorrow or next year” is positive and heart-warming. Lauren presents her compassion for the friend that she’s singing about. “Did I see you look down when you deserve to hold your head up high?” she asks.
‘It’s OK’ is an emotional respite on the record, a relief from too much self-analysis. This song is all about acceptance and it resolves some of the frustrations and anxieties. Upon listening, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding and a weight was lifted off my shoulders, because the chorus is believable and soothing. At a gig, Lauren said the song came about when she once told a scared dog, “it’s ok, its alright” and the song wrote itself after that. It is the most uplifting song on the record. “Don’t be so hard on yourself tonight, tomorrow will come and things will be fine” is something everyone needs to hear and remember.