Album Review: Aoife O’Donovan, ‘Age of Apathy’
Iridescent beauty envelops us on Aoife O’Donovan’s third solo album, Age of Apathy. Her lushly layered soundscapes weave around lyrics that convey the ragged emptiness of life, the haunting palpability of memory, and the joys of love and new life.
“B61” opens sparely with piano chords and O’Donovan’s crystalline vocals, recalling Laura Nyro’s “Billy Blues” before opening into a soulful, soaring chorus that smolders with the passion of bygone love—and also mourns missed opportunities fueled by the urgency of desiring connection—and the desolation of feeling that emanates from being alone in the world. The song is a little apocalypse of the heart.
Bright guitar strums open and carry the swaying “Phoenix,” which recalls the sonic structure of Joni Mitchell’s Coyote.” O’Donovan’s lithe vocals capture the swirling promise of a lover’s rising again from the ashes of a burned-out love. The title track reverberates with an echoing combination of guitars, strings, piano, and O’Donovan’s tremulous vocals, pondering the bleakness of the future, wishing to be born into a world that didn’t care about its own destruction, and reaching for hope in the tendrils of love; O’Donovan nods to Mitchell in the song’s final words: “guess it’s/ one that no one understands/ radio plays ‘my old man………..’”
Ringing guitars open “Elevators,” a song about life on the road, with travel measured in “elevators old songs/empty bottles” and where the singer washes “memories down the dirty bathroom sink.” Gentle fingerpicking circles around O’Donovan’s vocals on the opening of “Prodigal Daughter.” The song climbs upward as Allison Russell joins on harmonies to sing the story of a young woman who yearns to return home but who knows “forgiveness won’t come easy,” even as she tries to “shut the past behind us/…looking for something in the water/to wash away the pain.”
The album closes with the joyous pirouetting rhythms of “Passengers,” shimmering with the anticipation of the journey to a new place in life, no matter how long the road.
On Age of Apathy, O’Donovan joins Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell as our singer-songwriter-poets of the everyday and of the expansiveness of our lives.
Age of Apathy is available HERE.
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