“So, here’s another sad one.” This is how, through a knowing laugh, Laura Stevenson introduced the majority of her set when I saw her in Glasgow earlier this year. Sure, on one hand, it was a self-deprecating approach to break the tension of an emotionally intense set, the grounded humility of which established a rapport with those who had come […]
“So, here’s another sad one.” This is how, through a knowing laugh, Laura Stevenson introduced the majority of her set when I saw her in Glasgow earlier this year. Sure, on one hand, it was a self-deprecating approach to break the tension of an emotionally intense set, the grounded humility of which established a rapport with those who had come to hear the songs from her latest record. However, masked in the humour was the impossible-to-shake truth that the majority of The Big Freeze is thematically heavy going. At times darkly elusive, the record swirls with insecurities and thoughtful explorations of what makes us, well, us. It is for exactly those reasons that the album is so enchanting, and the reason there was barely a whisper in the crowd as she played. Everyone there was willing her on, happy to share in the communal catharsis her songs bring.
The Big Freeze is, at its heart, a set of humble, electrified folk songs that bend and sway beneath the tidal surge of Stevenson’s powerfully commanding voice. As ‘Hawks’ transitions into ‘Big Deep’ with the grace of a pirouetting ballet dancer, Stevenson glides from country-flecked back streets to grand euphoric landscapes without missing a beat, reminding us of her ability to both sketch the finest details while painting in universal shades. There is often isolation felt in Stevenson’s words, but there is also hope. Repeated affirmations litter the record; the aspects about ourselves that leave us vulnerable to the outside world, but the qualities we would not want to lose. The “I am so nice” of ‘Value Inn’or “I am honest” of ‘Big Deep’ scream with wounded defiance.
Some songwriters wear their hearts on their sleeves so that we don’t have to. Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit was one, and Stevenson shares the same unguarded bravery and willingness to share. To stumble across a familiar sadness, insecurity, or just plain confusion at the world around you in a song is to find a shared connection that you don’t need to justify or explain.
A few months on from first hearing The Big Freeze, I am on a plane heading away on a work trip that will separate me from my wife and daughter for the longest period since she was born. Within the cacophony of engine noise and the dizzying myriad of screens in headrests I find myself gripped by the impending isolation, and the distance to cover to make it back home. The lyrics of ‘Living Room, NY’ start dancing about my brain: ‘I want to fall asleep where you lie, I want to fall asleep with you, I miss you’.
My daughter is still at an age where she spends periods of many nights in our bed, recovering from bad dreams, or just struggling to settle. She kicks off blankets, digs her knees in my spine and takes up an inexplicable amount of space for someone so small. Yet I know that it is to those moments, with the family safe under one roof, that I will be counting down the seconds to return.
The Big Freeze became the soundtrack to my trip. On paper, it could have been a record to compound my sadness and isolation. But held within the lyrics of physical and emotional detachment, introspection and hopeful resolve, I found comfort. And maybe that’s the whole point. There is no logic as to why music connects. It all comes down to resonating waves that you catch and surf, that take you to somewhere greater or more peaceful than where you started. The Big Freeze provides that peace. It is a record of enormous honesty and heart, and one that I feel lucky to have found.