Album Review: Underdressed at the Symphony - Faye Webster

By Siya Vallabh

There are a few songs and artists that I can describe as “love at first listen”, and that’s how I would describe the first song by Faye Webster I heard, “Jonny”, off Webster’s 2019 album Atlanta Millionaires Club. I was immediately taken with the smooth R&B-inspired sound, the subtly emotional vocal performance and the timeless-sounding lyrics. 

It’s been five years since then and Faye Webster’s fifth studio album Underdressed at the Symphony was released not too long ago. It’s ten tracks long, running at around 37 minutes, just the right length to listen to on a medium-length commute or a semi-long drive (one of my preferred ways to listen to music).

What stood out to me on my first listen to the album was how Webster’s strong sonic definition from her previous albums has allowed her to experiment more with other aspects of songwriting like structure and lyricism while still remaining fun to listen to. 

Right from the start of the album with the track “Thinking About You”, we hear her signature, seamless blend of R&B, country, folk, and indie (even a bit of jazz influence, dare I say) and her sentimental vocals. It’s a pretty simple song structurally and lyrically, there are no real verses or choruses, and the majority of the six-minute song is made up of the lyrics “I’m thinking about you” repeated over and over again, but it sets the stage for the rest of the album well. 

The standout track from the album for me comes right after this one. “But Not Kiss” incorporates a reoccurring and very snappy, heavy chugging piano motif between Webster’s very simple but charged lyrics. It’s repetitive, but in a catchy way. The third track, “Wanna Quit All The Time” brings us back to the familiar sound of a steel guitar, an instrument Webster has made good use of (see: any other Faye Webster album). Webster’s honesty and relatability in her lyricism was a big part of why I loved her music initially, which is on full display here with lines like “I used to be self-conscious, well, really, I still am, I’m just better at figuring out why”, and I really loved the touch of the jazzy guitar solo at the end.

These three tracks unfortunately do lead into a sort of forgettable middle. Faye Webster and Lil Yachty isn’t a collaboration that I expected to hear, and “Lego Ring” is an alright song up until Yachty’s verse at the end, which doesn’t really fit with Webster’s sound, although I did think his backing vocals during her parts sounded better than expected. I was also not a fan of the vocal processing on “Feeling Good Today”, it seemed like a lazy attempt to make a dull interlude-like song more interesting and it didn’t quite work, and “Lifetime” and “eBay Purchase History” weren’t particularly special or different, although I did like the lyrics on the latter of the two. 

Despite this, I very much enjoyed the vocal processing on “He Loves Me Yeah!”, it worked very well with the overdrive on the guitars, the sharpness of the piano and the crisp drums. As the song goes on, the processing gets more intense and more noticeable, until she sounds like she’s trying to convince herself that he loves her as much as she’s trying to convince us. 

The album finishes on a high note with the title track “Underdressed at the Symphony” and the closing track, “Tttttime”. The title track’s variety production value is a nice departure from the sonic stillness of the middle tracks, and it’s incredibly pleasant to zone out and listen to. There is ample opportunity to appreciate Webster’s vocals and lyrics, but also to simply sit in her soundscape for a bit at the end. The closing track, like the rest of the album, makes use of simple and repetitive phrases, but brings back the steel guitar against delicate piano notes, providing a nice bookend to the album. 


Underdressed at the Symphony is available for streaming and download everywhere, and I think you should give it a listen. 

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