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Faye Webster meditates on the mundane in new album ‘Underdressed at the Symphony’

Indie-folk artist’s latest album is intricately crafted

<p>The album title was inspired by Webster’s own experience of feeling underdressed at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.</p><p>Courtesy of Amy Harris</p>

The album title was inspired by Webster’s own experience of feeling underdressed at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Courtesy of Amy Harris

“Underdressed at the Symphony,” Faye Webster’s fifth studio album, begins quietly. A sleepy, soft drum beat and mellow guitar rise to a crescendo, and bright piano notes flood forth like a new day. Appropriately, the six-minute opener, “Thinking About You,” feels like a morning anthem, as Webster gently sings the titular words again and again over sunny guitars, drums and bells. “I’m thinking about, thinking about you,” she repeats, until the words seem to lose their meaning. 

On her new album, the singer-songwriter from Atlanta acquiesces to the everyday. She sings of lazy and mundane scenes at home, and fittingly, the music is the perfect soundtrack for life’s monotonous morning moments — dusting shelves and spritzing houseplants. Yet the detailed and meticulous quality of most of the recordings ensures that the record doesn’t slip into the bleak category of tunes known as “pleasant background music,” a description that would do the music a great disservice. 

“Wanna Quit All the Time” follows a pessimistic and anxious Webster as she mulls over the mundane. She thinks about quitting her job and loathes the color of her house. “I think I’ll figure it out,” she sings behind a beautiful and lush steel guitar that guides the song. Bells and keys adorn the production like ornaments, making the song engaging and saving it from being mundane itself. In this way, the album at times feels paradoxical: Lazy everyday moments and anxieties are transformed into intricate compositions. 

The record’s warm, soft and largely cohesive sonic palette does, however, have a few interesting production choices sprinkled throughout to ensure that its music doesn’t grow stale. In “Feeling Good Today,” for example, a vocoder effect gives Webster’s voice a curious auto-tune sound that doesn’t overstay its welcome and further complicates the record’s paradoxical relationship with the quotidian. 


The record suffers when the music itself becomes monotonous. On “eBay Purchase History,” the boredom that Webster sings about infects the song itself. In the chorus-less song, she nonchalantly repeats the same vapid melody behind casual guitar playing. But Webster seems self-aware of this dullness. “It’s kinda nice to have familiarity,” she admits.

This lower moment is followed by the titular track, “Underdressed at the Symphony” — one of the highlights on the record, where all of its best attributes come together. A lush steel guitar, washed-out drums and a slyly optimistic piano accompany a wistful Webster. Moreover, the song contains the album’s ultimate moment of bathos. “I’m underdressed at the symphony,” Webster sings. Afterward, there’s an expensive, grandiose orchestral flurry of strings that juxtaposes the image of a too-casually dressed Webster. 

The album title was inspired by Webster’s own experience of feeling underdressed at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Her fifth studio album seems to embody this memory. Although the music is meticulous, beautiful and sometimes even exquisite, Webster insists that she feels inadequate for such opulence. She’s a homebody at heart. “I get lost in a song / Take a walk, call my mom / Don’t go out anymore / In half an hour, I’ll be bored,” she sings on the album’s final song, “Tttttime.”


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