“[Limerence] is the scientific word for the chemical state of your body when you’re falling in love. Ever since I heard that word, I wanted to write a song about it, and name an album after it,” said Hailey Magee ’15. This summer, she did just that.
Released on Aug. 24, “Limerence” is Hailey’s second EP, a seven-song endeavor written and recorded during the past eight months. Thematically, it’s all about limerence—about that very interesting and artistically fruitful space between falling in love and hitting the ground (or in this album, the bedroom).
Admittedly, I initially felt a bit girly pumping this through the stereo in my dorm room—a stark contrast from “Yeezus,” which I had been blasting prior to streaming the EP from her bandcamp. But after a minute of listening, I stopped feeling insecure about my masculinity, and let Magee’s smooth vocals and engaging lyrics take me to New York City as I traveled through the rest of this EP’s intimate, personal stories of whisky, sex on couches, letting go and falling asleep gazing at the light of a skyline.
Having seen Hailey perform on campus before, I wasn’t expecting a Taylor Swift cover CD from her, but nonetheless, I was surprised at how full this EP felt. She fit a wide range of both emotions and lyrics into this EP’s modest length. It is brimming with memorable melodies, vivid lyrics and satisfyingly woven songs. It isn’t just a couple of desperate, poorly recorded, college demos; it’s a declaration of a confident and skilled singer-songwriter.
Magee’s canvas for this EP is a simple, traditional singer-songwriter style fabric of acoustic guitar and vocals, with just a little bit of multitracking. Her understated guitar work and occasionally eyebrow-raising chord changes reveal an experienced musician. She is more sophisticated and nuanced than a “four-chord guitarist,” but she certainly doesn’t bash you over the head with it. As competent as the guitarwork is, “Limerence” most prominently features Magee’s voice.
Her singing is irresistibly easy to listen to: always clean, gentle and full of personality. The album has the sound of live-recorded vocals; none of its character is lost through the recording. Despite how good she sounds, at times it feels like she’s still trying to find her own vocal style—or more aptly, she chose to take on the vocal aesthetic of a different pop sub-genre. When she does this (namely on tracks “Heartprint” and “Never Sleeps Alone”) she loses a bit of her voice’s unique and alluring personality. It’s a bit unclear exactly what she’s going for; the changes in style are unexpected and even jarring.
Yet even in those songs, her rock-solid lyrics keep the album from dragging. Her hooks and imagery are excellent, and for the most part, she doesn’t sacrifice content for catchiness, though many moments are unforgivably catchy. Sometimes, she meanders from the lyrical tightness she set us up to expect with the first song, “& Company.” Some of her choruses stray toward vagueness, but she tends to wrap them up with a memorable line that clears up the preceding lyrics.
Despite how good the lyrics are, don’t get confused: This is definitely “pop” music. But its classification as such should not detract from its value. It’s always easy to listen and relate to, and her aesthetic clearly follows in the confessional ’70s folk-pop of the James Taylor and Carole King tradition.
“Armistice,” “& Company” and “Limerence” do stick out as her own take on the “singer/songwriter” genre. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but they really feel like they’re songs crafted by her, for her, with her own style. They sound true to the natural character of her voice, and they’re solid, memorable songs. All the songs on her EP bring you to a time and place and, more importantly, a feeling, but these offer a bit more—and stay with you for a little longer.
Despite this EP’s pop sound, Magee never quite bends to give you the cliché Top 40 genre chorus I may have been secretly dreading. The album isn’t necessarily separate from that hedonistic type of song, but she doesn’t take as far. It’s unclear whether it’s a testament to her songwriting and penchant for skipping the predictability of four-chord pop.
Above all, Magee has earnestly spilled herself into this EP. While you probably won’t stand up and dance, it’s hard not to smile and nod along to the catchy tunes and engaging storytelling. Despite its dynamic emotional range, it never expands into the realms of soul-crushing despair or mind-bending ecstasy. This is hardly a complaint: At all times, it’s easy to listen to and never drags. The EP stays in that easy-to-accept middle ground, and that’s what thematically it’s all about: the middle ground, the uncertainty of false starts accompanied by cautious optimism. Each song has a slightly different stylistic influence, but they’re all about the struggles of figuring yourself out and, as part of that, finding out who you are in the context of others.
Overall, I was satisfied with this EP. There’s enough pop flair to keep the casual Top 40 listener engaged but also enough substance to warrant a thorough examination and a cheap $4 download. What it lacks in complexity or extravagance is more than made up for by the palpable sincerity on each track.