To Alice Phoebe Lou, Making An Exceptional Album Is “Child’s Play”
On December 2nd, 2021, South African singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou released her surprise second album of that year, Child’s Play! Featuring production by David Perry (who had produced Lou’s earlier 2021 album, Glow), Child’s Play is a more guitar centered take on themes of love, solitude, and endings. Working with “best friends and longtime musical partners Ziv Yamin (drums, keyboards) and Dekel Adin (bass),” Lou described the recording process for Child’s Play as “simple and intuitive,” continuing on to say “We worked tirelessly on a limited schedule to bring these personal songs to life, so used to each other by now from recording Glow together that even though the workload was immense, it felt easy and enjoyable, the four of us very much on the same page.”
As the title of this article betrays, the album is incredible. Starting with the exceptional “Underworld,” Child’s Play is an absolutely fantastic album, tackling universal themes of love, solitude, and endings. While the instrumental performances are all phenomenal, the star of each of these songs is, of course, Alice Phoebe Lou’s lyrics. Being able to distill such expansive themes to potent sets of lyrics is incredibly hard, and Lou should be commended for it.
“Underworld”’s concept of loving someone so deeply that you can “communicate like trees way down under the ground” comes through not only in the light and airy vocals from Alice Phoebe Lou – with lyrics like the previous quote as well as “I hear you clearly without sounds” and “Tonight, I don’t wanna be anything but a girl in a cute dress, a cute mess” – but also the chord progression and the bass line. Melded with a standard alt-rock drum beat, a mellotron-esque organ, and an earworm of a chorus guitar line, the production of “Underworld” shows how simple it is to communicate without words. Of course, Lou also communicates these feelings with words in an incredible fashion, but the synthesis of music and lyric on “Underworld” is flawless.
“Sweet” and “Silly” are two sides of the same coin. Both songs acknowledge the feelings of helpless desire, giddiness, and longing that accompany love. With lines like “What I wanted was sweet surrender,” “Your body makes me feel shiny and gold like hidden treasure,” “I think you’re cool, and I think I want you,” and “Did I wake up in the wrong world, or am I in some kind of paradise,” these two tracks push forward this notion that the album is purely about a successful romantic relationship. It wouldn’t be hard to fall into that trap upon hearing the initial three-track run of “Underworld,” “Sweet,” and “Silly.”
However, “Me & the Moon” is when Alice Phoebe Lou starts to get a bit more existential with those same feelings of helpless desire, giddiness, and longing, acknowledging that personal love can provide the relief for those feelings as well. While she does mull over calling her love interest, she realizes towards the end of the song that “Maybe nothing’s what I need.” This scene of just her and the moon is enough to make her feel the love of the universe for a night.
This idea of personal love continues into the next track, “Let Me.” The song is about wanting to remain alone, even when someone else wants you to be more for them than you are for yourself. Honestly, the tracklisting of this album is my one major qualm, because it would make perfect sense for “Let Me” to go before “Me & the Moon,” yet they’re in the reverse order. However, these qualms are minor (even when referred to as major), because the album sounds incredible and has insanely good lyricism.
It’s here that I will pause the track-by-track analysis to acknowledge just how good the production on this album is. There are moments that feel purposefully lo-fi, and those moments always enhance what is going on within the smaller context of the song and the larger context of the album. There are other moments that feel insanely hi-fi, particularly on the title track, “Child’s Play.” Those moments merge many different instrumental parts seamlessly to a point where it’s easy to miss specific parts on initial listen because there are just so many, but it never feels like the tracks are overproduced. Everything that is present is there for a reason, and the replayability of this album is greatly enhanced by it. Excellent work by Alice Phoebe Lou, David Perry, and the crew.
Back to a quick track-by-track: “If You Were Here” is a gorgeous ode to the power of love, “Care” is an exceptional analysis of the desire that comes with romantic feelings, “Shake” is a solid palate-cleanser between “Care” and “End of the Road,” particularly because “End of the Road” is a track about not knowing when you will die but knowing that you might see your partner lose their love for you before then. It’s a heavy track with heavy lyrics and a shuffle groove that feels absolutely full of dread. Honestly, it’s an incredible penultimate track. If the album ended on “End of the Road,” I’d be relatively happy.
I say relatively, of course, because the closer, title track “Child’s Play,” is 100% perfect. The groove is bumping, the vocals are sweeping and gorgeous, the bass line drives the track forward, and the solos that make up at least half of the song’s seven minute and 43 second run time are all fantastic. A perfect ending to an incredible album.
I would highly recommend anyone listen to Child’s Play, and I know I’m going to hop over and listen to Glow and Alice Phoebe Lou’s earlier work ASAP. Check out the album below, and let us know what you think!