Lily Konigsberg: Lily We Need to Talk Now
Lily Konigsberg has a question for the culture: What about Stacy? On “Proud Home,” the raging centerpiece of her oddball-fabulous debut, Lily We Need to Talk Now, she recasts Fountains of Wayne’s enduring “Stacy’s Mom” from the point of view of the jilted Stacy, a wry pop-cultural bloodletting some 18 years in the making. “You’ve got a lot of fucking things to be proud of!,” Lily-as-Stacy seethes. “I know you’ve got a crush on my mom/You come by every time she is home.” Konigsberg plays her part with gonzo commitment and a fanfiction writer’s sense of imagination: She’s Stacy if Stacy started making narky pop-punk in the garage.
In each of her many musical projects, the twenty-something native New Yorker roams free across a map of the last 50 years of contemporary pop music, picking and choosing sounds and ideas as she pleases. Konigsberg seems to recognize that spending time far from the beaten path often yields the most exciting results: Her output to date displays a canny blend of the experimental and the aggressively catchy. In just the past two years, she’s released an EP of charismatic pop-rock experiments as part of My Idea, a collaboration with Water From Your Eyes’ Nate Amos; Palberta5000, the punky third album by avant-garde trio Palberta; a Jessy Lanza-ish dance record with electronic duo Lily and Horn Horse; an Unsound-ready experimental EP, Laugh Now Cry L8r, with Lucy; and an EP under her own name, It’s Just Like All the Clouds.
Although there are a few qualities that recur in each of Konigsberg’s projects—her cherubic voice and Arthur Russell-indebted sense of melody—for the most part, these records are tied together by Konigsberg’s polymathic musical sensibility, her ability to draw from a dozen different traditions at once. Taking stock of her catalog reveals an artist seemingly more driven by method than style. Listening to Konigsberg’s music, I imagine the questions she might ask herself during her creative process: How can I make this odd song more immediate? Can this pop track be a little freakier? The unifying quality of Konigsberg’s various projects may be that there are no distinct aesthetic or creative boundaries.
Lily We Need to Talk Now doesn’t make any real attempt to reel in Konigsberg’s impulse towards genre fusion, but it is her most purposeful record to date, and her most accessible. Working exclusively with Amos as producer, there’s a consistency of tone. This is, loosely, a breakup record; it runs through familiar beats (you’ll never find anyone better; you need to seek help; why did we split; I’ll always love you) in surprising ways. Unlike The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now, a compilation of recent solo music, Lily We Need to Talk Now is lush and coherent, and, at 24 minutes, extremely easy to leave on repeat. Konigsberg cycles through a handful of styles—alt-pop that splits the difference between Sixpence None the Richer and Natasha Bedingfield on “Sweat Forever,” funky, ESG-indebted dance on “Alone,” crunchy pop-punk on “Bad Boy” and “Roses, Again,” bratty garage rock on “That’s The Way I Like It” and “True”—but thanks to the record’s thematic spine, the jumps never induce whiplash.
As a writer, Konigsberg is laser-focussed: Most every song has a hook that’s liable to get stuck in your head, and each is tailored to its environment. The titular phrase of “That’s The Way I Like It” begins staccato and turns into a drawl, a rhythmic style that recalls Whitechocolatespaceegg-era Liz Phair, while the chorus of “Alone” slots perfectly between furious congas and a frenetic bass line. “Roses, Again” seems to nod to Joyce Manor’s “Constant Headache,” drawing out that song’s sing-song, girl-group-ready qualities. The chorus of “Sweat Forever” should play on a loop every time someone looks at the Nicole Kidman post-divorce photo: “I can make you sweat forever/I was right/The last time that I saw you/Said goodbye, knowing it would be forever.”
Although Konigsberg is both prolific and chameleonic, Lily We Need to Talk Now feels like the best showcase yet of her talent as a writer and arranger. Last year, she told Pitchfork that she “want[s] to write songs that get stuck in people’s heads for the rest of their lives,” and while each of her projects thus far has had a song or two that fits the criteria, Lily We Need to Talk Now is wall-to-wall hooks. She draws on the entire history of pop-rock heartbreak anthems and ties it together with sugary-sweet vocals and a witty, whimsical sensibility.
Buy: Rough Trade
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