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Music News

The Warmth of a Home Found Within Alice Phoebe Lou’s ‘Shelter’

todaySeptember 18, 2023

Background

The opening note of Alice Phoebe Lou’s fifth album Shelter sounds one second after the song’s true start, as if the conversation that is her music comes after only a brief lull in time. It’s just enough for her to create the illusion of drawing a breath before plunging us right in the middle of her song, her voice ringing out a beat before the music joins her.

It’s been a year and a half since her fourth album Child’s Play released, a period of time during which Lou’s life was upended as she was suddenly evicted from her home. In an interview with The Forty-Five, she expressed her discomfort in feeling that she no longer had roots in Berlin, where she’s been since she moved from South Africa in 2012. She goes on to describe the album as both a “celebration” and “conversation with [her] younger self.”

The track “Open My Door” seems to resist that newfound lack of security head-on, having found a safe haven inside herself instead as she “took my bones and I called them my own.” She offers a hopeful outlook on an otherwise somber circumstance, complete with the gentle, pleasant strumming of her guitar and catchy beat as she sings “and now I wander the world alone but alive / and smiling on the inside.” “Hammer” counters this bold proclamation of independence with a quiet plea to lift her up “over the walls I built with my own hands,” to break down those walls and offer a reprieve from the solitude of self sufficiency.

“Lose My Head” is a sure standout amongst the primarily softer melodies that comprise the album. Lou offers her hand in invitation, beckoning us to join her in dance and play, because “life’s just sitting there / but love isn’t always.” The last half of the song breaks back into the familiar dreaminess, forgoing drum and guitar in favor of the richer tones unique to piano keys. It’s a brief but welcome interruption, and adds variety to Shelter’s otherwise quite uniform sound.

Alice Phoebe Lou. Credit: Mariano Regidor/Redferns

Shelter’s tracklist is soft and sweet at times and playfully poetic at others, but at its bare bones it is a collection of songs that speaks to Lou’s growth as an artist in an uncertain time of her life. The repeating themes of heaven and angels, reality and dreams are all wound together by airy vocals and a general contentedness with life that culminates in a refreshing listening experience. With this album, Lou turns her hardships into a charming little collection of tracks that reflect the ways she came to terms with the loss of her home, as well as navigated her youth and identity. New roots are taking hold in her ground, and Alice Phoebe Lou is continuing to carve out her space in the world as an artist whose gentle vocals resound even in their softness. She parts with a promise: “A new world’s begun / My girl.”

Written by: Emily Thrun

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