Allo Darlin'

My 2014 Soundtrack: Laura Leebove

Laura Leebove

By Laura Leebove

Managing Editor
on 12.17.14 in Features

In October at the dingy Brooklyn venue Glasslands, sandwiched between my best friend and my boyfriend, I tried to hold back my tears as Allo Darlin’ frontwoman Elizabeth Morris sang about the songs and people who will “mean something,” and whether we’ve already heard and met them. The song — “Tallulah,” from the band’s 2012 album Europe — gets me every time. I first heard it a few weeks after being dumped, and two days after my first post-breakup date, with a guy I met on the internet. Every line was a piece of my own story — the romantic summertime letter about “what could’ve been” (which turned out to be an ill-fated long-distance relationship); the lines about missing old friends but finding a deep connection with new ones (my roots in the Midwest versus my life in New York). But what really got me was the chorus: “I’m wondering if I’ve already heard all the songs that’ll mean something/ And I’m wondering if I’ve already met all the people that’ll mean something.” It’s a depressing thought: Have I heard all the music that’s going to matter to me? Am I going to be alone forever? While I’m certain I’m not done meeting people who will have an impact on my life, I know I’ve got one of the most important ones on lock: Almost three years later, that guy from the internet and I are now bound to a 30-year mortgage.

But “Tallulah” — and the rest of Allo Darlin”s music, which has always hit so close to home — set a new bar for what it meant for a song to “mean something.” It’s been hard to find others that live up to it, and it’s set an impossibly high standard for this band that I love so much. When Allo Darlin”s new album We Come From the Same Place was announced, and I learned that in the time between records Morris had moved to a new place and gotten married, I assumed that it’d be another set of life-affirming songs that’d make me cry at my desk — and I was disappointed when that didn’t happen. I spent hours searching desperately for something to latch on to — besides the obvious super-mushy lines like “the truth is, when I realized I loved you it was like everything I had ever lost had come back” — but to no avail. It’s still a good record — few indie pop bands make music as consistently sharp as theirs — but it wasn’t what I selfishly wanted.

While I didn’t find a lot of profound, super-personal meaning in my most anticipated album of the year, thankfully, I found it elsewhere: Jason Isbell moved me to tears at Lincoln Center back in January; tUnE-yArDs‘ exhilarating song “Hey Life” perfectly articulated my chaotic year of nonstop going-going-going almost to the point of burnout (“I don’t wanna run out/ but I’m runnin’, runnin’/ I don’t know where to go/ but I can’t seem to go slowly, no”); nearly all of Chumped‘s debut LP Teenage Retirement brought back memories of the stress and excitement of my early 20s (“You want freedom/ and a new thing/ well I say go ahead and take it, honey”); and Tweedy‘s “Low Key” could’ve been written by my boyfriend, who’s understated when it comes to showing excitement, but is unflagging in his love and loyalty (“I won’t jump for joy, I don’t/ If I get excited, nobody knows/ But I’m gonna love you the same/ I’ll always be your fool/ And when it looks like I don’t care/ I’m just playing it cool”; and it would be remiss of me to not mention that the premise of the amazing video that accompanies the song is painfully relevant this month).

Morris has said that We Come From the Same Place is “anti-nostalgic” — it’s about living in the present instead of reminiscing about how everything used to be so much better, best heard in the song “History Lessons”: “I want you to remember this/ what came before doesn’t have to have been the best/ Present becomes the past/ you realize what you’ve missed,” she sings. Morris and I both might have come from the same place — a stage of our lives where we spent a little too much time dwelling on what came before — but we ended up with present tenses that look very different. And while this album didn’t move me the way I initially wanted and expected it to, I’m relieved to have still found a way to make it meaningful. It turns out I haven’t heard all the songs that will “mean something” yet — it’s just that as I’ve grown up and started moving forward instead of backward, the songs that move me now inspire me for different reasons, and they come from different places.

Favorite Albums of 2014 (alphabetically, because ranking them is too hard):

Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Alex Napping, This Is Not a Bedroom
Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire for No Witness
FKA twigs, LP1
Haley Bonar, Last War
Chumped, Teenage Retirement
Cloud Nothings, Here and Nowhere Else
Doug Paisley, Strong Feelings
Lykke Li, I Never Learn
Miranda Lambert, Platinum
Mitski, Bury Me at Makeout Creek
The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers
Owen Pallett, In Conflict
Perfume Genius, Too Bright
Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2
tUnE-yArDs, Nikki Nack
Sharon Van Etten, Are We There
St. Vincent, St. Vincent
The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream
White Lung, Deep Fantasy

Favorite Shows of 2014

1. Jason Isbell at Lincoln Center (January 30)
2. Allo Darlin’ at Glasslands (October 10)
3. tUnE-yArDs at Rough Trade (May 7)
4. Mirah at Supper Studio/Centre for Social Innovation (April 12)
5. Neil Young at Carnegie Hall (January 6)
6. Nickel Creek at Beacon Theatre (April 29)
7. Beach House, Fleet Foxes and others performing Gene Clark’s No Other at Bowery Ballroom (January 25)
8. St. Vincent at Prospect Park Bandshell (August 9)
9. Owen Pallett at Bowery Ballroom (May 14)
10. Phosphorescent and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper at Knitting Factory (November 20)