Faye Webster knows the power of an arrangement. Never one to relegate her instrumentation to mere backup, she has a knack for emphasizing the emotional resonance of her words, whether through a well-placed pedal steel meow or an agilely unfurling bassline. His typical compositions are lush yet economical, pairing well with a vulnerable yet dry lyricism. But she’s trying something different with her new EP, Automotive Therapy Sessionsin which she and a 24-piece orchestra reinvent several songs from her last two records, 2019 Atlanta Millionaires Club and 2021 I know I’m funny haha, plus a new entry, “Car Therapy”.
Created and conducted by Trey Pollard (Foxygen, Natalie Prass), these orchestral arrangements sound like love letters to Hollywood’s golden age. The instrumentation is strictly classical and Drew Vandenberg’s production is rich and scintillating. For fans, it’s an Easter egg hunt to hear how the details of the songs are translated. “Cheers (To You & Me)” best exemplifies the value of these transformations, based on Webster’s rockiest cut. Without the original track’s sturdy drum anchor, its cellos have an insistent wobbling feel as they mimic a distorted guitar, giving the song a new, almost drunken swagger; the final guitar solo, transposed to the violin, ends the EP on a triumphant note.
Webster, who recorded live with the orchestra in sight, is having a lot of fun with his voice: controlling it tighter, flexing it a bit more, and imbuing it with new drama. But it’s also obvious that she’s really moved by these beautiful renditions of her songs. Rising to respond to the occasion, she delivers some of her best vocal performances to date, such as her tender and haunting repeat of the chorus at the end of “Kind Of (Type of Way).”
Most interesting is how the maximalism and serious vintage homage of these renditions remove the defensive irony from Webster’s lyrics, exposing the naked emotion in the same words. It’s clear even in the new track “Car Therapy,” as Webster quietly asks, “Hold my body and I’ll forget I hate myself”*—*no “haha” here. Where the original “Sometimes” is a dreamy slow dance, this version – “Sometimes (Overanalyze)” – sounds like the heartbreaking final act of a musical, Webster alone and desperate in the spotlight just before the curtain goes down. grave. And in the second half of “Suite: Jonny,” which combines a two-part song by Atlanta Millionaires Club, Webster amplifies his speech on an instrument that looks like sheet music, turning a vocal message into a movie monologue. Like the rest of the EP, it’s bold, but Webster knows what she’s doing. These arrangements make her a star.
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