We first heard Ailbhe Reddy when BBC 6 Music conducted an interview with her – and played stunning single ‘Looking Happy’ – as part of their Independence Day celebrations last month. Shortly after, we received an email from her PR Matty at Super Cat, and just couldn’t wait to absorb ourselves in her new album, ‘Personal History’. Ailbhe has already played shows at Glastonbury and Primavera and is set to support Big Thief next year.
The album opens with ‘Failing’ – a song that falls somewhere between Elliott Smith’s melancholy sensibilities and The Cranberries’ sheer force of nature. Ailbhe lays her heart on the line as she talks about how difficult modern life can be: ‘I’m trying my best to make this make sense but I’m failing’. This is swiftly followed by ‘Loyal’ and its bitter opening line: ‘You talk like a historian’. This nostalgic piece finds Ailbhe reflecting on how her sense of loyalty can be both a strength and weakness: ‘I always say I’ll change for you but I never do’; ‘I want you somewhere in my life, in the corner of my room’. ‘Between Your Teeth’ continues in a similar vein as Ailbhe ponders how some spiteful conversations and thoughts just go round in circles, leading to harmful anxiety: ‘I’m feeling like I think too much. I think for both of us’.
The double whammy of ‘Walk Away’ (sample lyric: ‘there must be something wrong if you refuse to stay’) and ‘Life Without You’ offers a powerful and poignant emotional punch, while ‘Looking Happy’ examines break-ups in the age of social media – and how keeping an eye on an ex-partner’s life can only lead to unhappiness: ‘Are you ever looking for me?’ ‘Personal History’ is all about the importance of self-preservation and how this can be found in everything from ‘taking care of my own head’ to ‘the romance of watching TV’. ‘Time Difference’ finds Ailbhe dipping her toes into the synthy pop sound that serves Maggie Rogers so well, while ‘Late Bloomer’ is a love letter to someone who is irreplaceable: ‘We obsess about the future but sometimes waiting feels like torture’.
The final song on the album, ‘Self Improvement’, captures the overriding message as Ailbhe starts to look ahead. You’ll want to be part of Ailbhe Reddy’s ‘Personal History’ – it’s an evocative album full of hopes, dreams, sadness and confessions.