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The Glen Bard

Enchanting Melodies: Laufey’s ‘Bewitched’ Album

Album Cover Art for Bewitched by Laufey. All rights reserved to Laufey.
Album Cover Art for Bewitched by Laufey. All rights reserved to Laufey.

          On her new album, Bewitched, released by Dan Wilson and Spencer Stewart through AWAL Records, known for their work with the likes of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and Steve Lacy, Laufey cracks open her heart and bears her shamelessly hopeless romantic soul to her listeners on only her second full-length album. Laufey takes a bold, more deliberate approach to her lyricism on topics like young love, and intentionally utilizes Jazz as a vehicle to emote with both her classical voice, and clear-cut instrumentals. Though Laufey has worked with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra before, and has included 60s pop-esque harmonies in her previous works, she has transformed her talents into something more versatile and spectacular than ever before. 

          On the opening track, “Dreamer”, Laufey covers a recurring theme in her music: the trials and tribulations of modern love. The arrangement of soft piano and dreamy harmonies to spirited bass and soft jazz brushes is enchanting. The track establishes a sense of wonder that can consistently be found throughout the entirety of the album and invites the listener to join Laufey in her mystic world of young, dizzying love.

          While Laufey is continually consistent with her commitment to making jazz music popular again, she also explores a musical mirage of varying genres that is crafted throughout the duration of the album. On tracks like “Second Best”, “While You Were Sleeping”, and “Lovesick”, Laufey tackles a more girl-and-guitar sound to her music, taking a page out of one of Laufey’s more modern influences, Taylor Swift, as well as a more modern musical arrangement overall.

          Before the first half of the album comes to a close, the sound shifts from soft, dreamy, and romantic, to a more deeply emotional perspective on the track “California and Me”. Laufey’s lyrical abilities are front and center on this track, demanding careful attention from the listener. While the song may not cover new territory, as it explores a similar concept of a heartbreaking love story to that of the earlier track “Second Best” , this track is more of a dynamic story. Not only does the lyricism make “California and Me” a stand out track, but the talented orchestration of the Philharmonia Orchestra shines through in such a way that highlights the emotional devices of classical music, and adds a new element to Laufey’s sound.

          Classical music isn’t the only other genre Laufey experimented with throughout the album, though. Laufey takes inspiration from Brazilian bossa nova through rhythmic bass and syncopated guitar. Laufey takes a pop infused bossa nova approach to “From The Start”, first released as a single, and the most successful song on the album so far. With the rhythmic samba elements and subdued vocals of bossa nova, Laufey reverts to her quintessential fluttery romantic themes, singing “when I talk to you, Cupid walks right through and shoots an arrow through my heart”. Similar Bossa Nova influences can be heard soon after on the track titled “Haunted”, though this song has a melancholic twist to it, and the addition of somber violin.

          While Laufey’s original songs have plenty of memorable moments for listeners, Laufey’s cover of “Misty” by Errol Garner, the song was covered most popularly by Ella Figzgerald, one of Laufey’s greatest influences. The Cover is a particularly breathtaking experience. Laufey very clearly allows her Jazz fanaticism to gracefully bleed through every word she so nostalgically sings. The jazzy manipulation of her voice, combined with the soft fuzziness of the instrumentals, gives the song a very jazzy cafe atmosphere unlike any other track on the album.

          Laufey doesn’t only discuss her entanglements and lovelorn perspective of life, but takes a more personal approach to one of the last songs on the album. In “Letter to My 13 Year Old Self” Laufey serenades and comforts her adolescent self. This fragile and bittersweet track is just the comforting addition to the album that the listeners yearn for. This song tugs at the heart strings of youth, reopens old wounds from when being different felt like a crime punishable by death.  “I’m so sorry that they picked you last/Try to say your foreign name and laugh,” she sings over her guitar. Though, like so much of her work, Laufey does not constrain the track to just plucky guitar, but eventually opens up the song to include buoyant strings. Even teenage heartache is dreamy in Laufey’s world of lovesick wonderment.

          The album comes to a close with the title track “Bewitched”. The title of the song is more than representative of the enchanting effect it has on the listener. The melody of the song is familiar to the listener already because in an earlier track title “Nocturne (Interlude)”, just halfway through the album, the completely instrumental piano driven interlude includes the melody of “Bewitched”. The primarily orchestral sound to the song certainly has a bewitching effect on the audience where Laufey stated in an interview with The Line of Best Fit that she “wanted the Philharmonia Orchestra to illustrate that feeling when you’re first falling in love with someone”. If the song contributes anything to the album, it is definitely that use of masterful orchestration to illustrate the magic of love.

          Laufey does not shy away from experimenting with mixing her favorite genres on this album, and that is possibly what makes this album both unique and timeless. Laufey’s classical influences deliver a sense of timeless comfort to her compositions, while her inclination towards jazz infuses the album with a catchy, yet emotional flair. Her incorporation of bossa nova adds a touch of rhythm that makes tracks like “From The Start” nearly addicting for listeners. Laufey’s genre mixing is a testament to her creativity and musical knowledge, captivating audiences with harmonious blends of some of Laufey’s greatest influences, and creating a sonic tapestry representative of Laufey as a person, and a growing artist. Throughout all of her experimentation Laufey ultimately wants to bring classical music and modern jazz back into the mainstream for everyone to enjoy.

          Laufey’s love and appreciation for classical music and jazz stems from her childhood, when she’d pop on old jazz records by the likes of Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday. As she grew up Laufey felt that the jazz titans of the past resonated with her, and shaped her as an artist more deeply than any modern day pop artists. Laufey also grew up listening to classical music with her family, and even took cello lessons starting from a young age. The influence of composers like Chopin and Ravel, whose work she cherishes, is featured front and center on this album as Laufey delves more into composing music.

          Though Laufey takes a novel approach to popularizing modern jazz, she isn’t the only one. Billie Eilish covered jazz classic “I’m In The Mood For Love” on BBC’s Radio 1 Lounge, and credits her recent influences to the likes of Julie London, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra. Two time Grammy winner, Samara Jones embodies the old-school jazz sound, and is taking the charts by storm. Perhaps Laufey is a leading force to the jazz resurgence in 2023, or a genre confined to the holiday season, but rather a new spin in popular modern music.

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