Låpsley narrates tales of self and romantic love, mental health, and troublesome Twenties tales with her latest album, Cautionary Tales Of Youth.
In the wake of a fatal pandemic, London-based Låpsley known for her nonchalant yet bourbon-smooth, passionately soft octave used this tumultuous period for reinvention and created what can only be described as a hyperbolic time chamber of rebirth where becoming, healing, and a more therapeutic nuance to self-care ultimately affects the relationship you have with loved ones.
The story is the story of giving yourself a chance at love, allowing yourself to be enough, healing your inner child, developing your self-esteem going headfirst into its woes, smiles, sensual twists and low vibrational agonies without doing yourself a disservice of being an unwelcomed guest in the lives of those whom you affect.
The epitome of garage avant-garde pop made it a pain point to paint her 3rd studio album with a visual poetic form which reads like a sonic extended metaphor and is a masterclass of melancholic penmanship layered with silver lining mechanisms either in upbeat tunes like “Dial Two Seven” – an ode to the South African dialling code (+27).
In the searingly honest “Lifeline”, Låpsley strikes a chord with those who share her journey with depression and ADHD as she eloquently laments “I’m in the riptide / swimming against my own life / in the nighttime I’m fighting for the daylight”.
It is a crucial moment indicative of the struggle to trust oneself to be at war with oneself, which adversely affects her relationship with those who want to love her and struggle to love her.
It is for this reason, I suspect the empath needed to introduce the mood and tone of the album with “32 Floors,” her active fight against the environmental influence and self-inflicted trauma inspiring musings such as “I feel your hands support me as you hold /And I try / Try to fight it, but why? / You need this as much as I do too / It’s lonely when nobody understands you.”
Essentially it is to freefall, to submerge herself in the blues of “Hotel Corridors” in search of the ultimate paradise, love and peace of mind. We would be remiss to not mention how the entendre layering of the chorus which breaks off into a hook can be interpreted on one level towards the end “I’m learning / I’m searching / I’m running“.
However, given the counterculture picture of facing your demons as opposed to doing what all young people do: escape, you can unlock a new layer of the hook to “unlearning / unlearning” an imperative tool to being as free as the nightingale bird.
Our twenties are often the prime time for humans to initiate their state of being complete, elusive and dare I say, unattainable though our fine wine ageing does refine our character over time. The collection, where relationships, university, and travel shape the lifelong journey of adulthood took Låpsley from her native Clapton, East London, to Cape Town, South Africa.
Collaborating with the likes of Jessy Lanza, Paul White, Joe Brown, Greg Abrahams and the folk darling of electronic house music, Msaki, allowed for broadened perspectives concerning soundscape and songwriting texture as Msaki’s verse on “Close To Heaven” reads:
Gqum Qqum (an onomatopoeia resembling the thump of a heartbeat)
Liyaduduma (a verb-esque adjective describing a thunderous heartbeat)
Kuyasheshwa la siyaphuthuma (it’s fast-paced here, and we are in a hurry)
Oko ungasbambi (ergo, do not hold yourself back)
Pearls of wisdom aimed at encouraging the wanderer to trust in her journey and lean into her fears versus proceeding with caution as the tale of her youth blossoms into new chapters of christening.
I believe in an existence of a dual function of the subject of Låpsley’s musings, on one layer to the lovers that shaped her album and ultimately towards herself in the pursuit of self-love. This is evident in the trade-off of intentionality in the wording between “War And Peace” and “Levitate”.
“War And Peace” reads “I’ve never stood so tall / But you’ve got the coldest way of bringing me down / With no words at all / So I’ll stand out in the road ’til we’re at peace again” while Levitate reads, “I thought I could be the one to take your pain away / I know you fight the feelings cause you to run away“.
From these two narratives, you get a sense of the self-sabotage akin to those who spew themselves with negativity when the stigma of mental health disorders catches up to them.
The African saying “a healer can’t heal themselves” echoing how in our youth, relationships sometimes have the function of redemption where you either want a hero and to be a hero, to which there is a subconscious realization in the album closer “Say I’m What You Need”.
It is an affirmation to do away with the notion of saving, and to affirm that we are enough, we are all we need and if we fill our cups, filling the cups of our fellow love will be twice as easy.
Låpsley, a placeholder for some of the cleanest vocally produced works in recent history, put her synth, harmonies and BPMs into documenting the best and worst times of her journey with internal and external love.
Cautionary Tales Of Youth serves not only as a reminder that our best days are yet to come but also reminds us that our best days can be now if we will it and take action to actualize a better life for ourselves.
Listen to Låpsley’s Cautionary Tales Of Youth below and stream it everywhere else here.
Words by Malibongwe Sicelo Cedric Dladla