Amy Studt – Happiest Girl in the Universe

Posted: 2 October 2019 in Albums
Tags: , , , ,

Crocodile Laboratories – 4th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems almost beyond banal to remark that we live in troubled, troubling, challenging, and anxietised times. Since the turn of the millennium, and certainly for the last decade or so now, it feels as if we’ve been hurtling inexorably toward the end of days. Not one aspect of our existence is sustainable. We’ve known it for some fifty years, but here we are, staring into the swirling void the black hole that is our absence of future, and it’s nothing short of utterly fucking terrifying. It’s small wonder everyone’s cracking, that mental health issues are beyond rife to the point that it feels like half the population is struggling with some form of stress, anxiety, depression or related disorder. Are we getting better at speaking up, diagnosing, and treating these things – or could it simply be that we haven’t evolved at the pace of technology and society, and we’re just not built to cope with contemporary existence?

There was no way that when Amy Studt, after many, many years in the wilderness, and having followed a long, hard, road through recovery and stuttering false starts, could have envisaged the world she would finally deliver her comeback album to. So on the one hand, the recent events which saw the president of the United States of America first attempt to dismantle a 16-year-old-girl whose mission drive positive action against climate change, only for her to utterly demolish him by turning his words back on him, have no bearing on Amy’s album, the optimistically-titled Happiest Girl in the Universe. But on the other, the ‘happy young girl looking forward to a bright future’ Twitter duel is perhaps as relevant as it gets. Because in the personal lies the universal.

And Amy’s album is an intensely personal document of breakdown and recovery, and the title reflects the glowing hope of light at the end of the tunnel, of being able to find and cling to those moments of happiness, however fleeting, and accept that for all the darkness, there is light, and that light is what matters.

The singles, released at regular intervals over the last few months to give a slow-build engagement with the album have done more than pique the interest, but have built a steady-evolving picture of her creative rebuilding, and an insight into the long and difficult process that has seen her use creativity as a form of therapy.

From the haunting ‘I was Jesus in Your Veins’, which opens the album to the delicate piano-led introspection of the title track which draws the curtain with an air of soft calm , of homely comfort and a certain relaxedness that conjures images of Sunday morning coffee curled up in a chair taking it easy with a book or whatever.

But Amy sings of Diazepam, of depression, but also of empowerment: ‘Violently With Love’ is, on the face of it, a simple piano tune with vocals, but it’s a forceful songs that goes beyond ‘power ballad’ to an emotive tsunami. ‘I paid my dues. I played it your way. Now this s my way’, she sings on ‘Let the Music Play’. The video features footage of her from her childhood and beyond and evokes a deep nostalgia that’s resonant and affecting, and reminds us of the ageing process that affects us all. These are moments, locked in time, but they’re the moments of a one-time child star who’s different now. Older, wiser, perhaps, but also a traumatised adult who’s lived. Yes: she’s been there. She’s been done over by the industry. She’s still here. Survival is revenge.

‘The Water’ marks a stylistic departure, with a shift toward grand, sweeping cinemascopic sounds over a brooding piano. Studt’s voice is bathed in echo as she soars skywards once more, and in place of the quiet, intimate tone of the previous tracks, she spins skywards into the territory more common to Chelsea Wolfe and Zola Jesus. Stretching out to the five-and-a-half minute mark, it’s vast and immersive.

She’s no longer just a little girl: Amy’s a full-fledged artist ad while her years in the dark represent troubling times and reflect more on society than the artist, they’re past. Happiest Girl in the Universe is not an easy album, lyrically. Its lyrics are painfully introspective, raw, open, honest. But musically, it’s simply magnificent, and for all the pam and anguish there isn’t a song on here that isn’t lilting, melodic, and plain lovely. Happiest Girl in the Universe contain ten songs, and every last one is perfectly crafted, poignant, and touching. Amy is definitely winning: here’s looking to a brighter future.

  1. juliee202 says:

    Moving, deep, and so brilliantly written.

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