Laufey Bewitches Us With Her New Album
Singer and instrumentalist Laufey offers a fresh perspective on modern jazz with the release of Bewitched, her second full-length album.
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You scroll through TikTok and notice that your For You page is overrun with the mesmerizing audio of “From The Start (Sped Up)” accompanied by humorous slideshows about unsuccessful romantic pursuits. It is almost as if that high-pitched voice has, well, bewitched you. Jazz singer and instrumentalist Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir, known by the mononym Laufey, hopes to continue enchanting her listeners with the release of her sophomore album, Bewitched (2023). Laufey’s debut album, Everything I Know About Love (2022), showcased her musical capabilities through a range of intimate piano instrumentation and cinematic bossa nova beats. Bewitched brings these elements to the table once more while also providing listeners with a more eclectic variety of melodic themes that all fall under the broad category of jazz pop, which Laufey has made her trademark.
Thanks to early exposure to famous artists like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, Laufey has long been acquainted with the realm of jazz. These inspiring figures led her to pursue classical music from a young age, taking up both the piano and cello. She worked as a cellist with symphonic orchestras like the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra on multiple occasions. Her musical training background is particularly prominent on Bewitched’s eighth track, titled “Nocturne (Interlude),” a tantalizing piano arrangement composed and performed by Laufey.
Several of the tracks on Bewitched retain Laufey’s traditional lyrical subject: love. This trend is seen in track five, “While You Were Sleeping,” an airy ballad in which she conveys the whimsical and seemingly weightless feeling associated with falling in love. Similarly, she further explores the subject of love in track six, “Lovesick,” which features a faster tempo and potent guitar chords that illustrate impassioned cries for intimacy: “Inching closer but I fear / That I’ll love so much, you’ll slip away.”
Laufey’s vulnerability shines through in her lyricism, each song delivering a graceful homage to all of the unique forms of love. However, she proves herself as more than a hopeless romantic in track 13, fittingly titled “Letter To My 13 Year Old Self,” in which she reflects on the unbridled affection she holds for the outcasted yet aspirational person she was as a teenager. For an artist who usually focuses on exploring facets of romantic relationships, the thematic break of “Letter To My 13 Year Old Self” contains the album’s most relatable and inspiring lyrics. Her deep vibrato vocals enunciate, “I’m so sorry that they pick you last / Try to say your foreign name and laugh.” She encourages her younger self to remain dedicated to her dreams despite growing pains and her struggle to fit in, reminding herself of her beauty, both inside and out.
Bewitched further tackles themes of heartbreak and self-improvement through stunning transitions that holistically depict the process of healing from traumatic relationships. In track seven, “California and Me,” Laufey broods over the loss of a lover who has gone to rekindle a former relationship, singing “Left me and the ocean for your old flame / Holding back my tears, I couldn’t make you stay.” This song is followed by “Nocturne (Interlude),” an instrumental track that allows both Laufey and the listener to sit with their emotions and fully process the powerful lyricism of “California and Me.” Her bout of internal strife concludes with track nine, “Promise,” within which she criticizes herself for her futile attachment to a lover who continues to let her down. “Promise” exudes an unprecedented instrumental heaviness for Laufey, making it the album’s most memorable track. The chorus gleams with complexity as her vibrato vocals embrace a myriad of intense piano chords. The song culminates with an enchanting combination of woodwind and violin progressions. Ballads like “Promise” are particularly successful because of their succinct jazz influence, while other more reluctant tracks unfortunately fall flat. Songs such as track 11, “Misty,” and track 12, “Serendipity,” attempt to foster a mellow vibe, but ultimately fail due to their banal sound.
Beyond its stand-out lyrical content, the sonic qualities of Bewitched blur into uniformity. Laufey’s orchestral talents as a cellist enable her to integrate a wide range of dynamic orchestra compositions in her songs, but her skills are not effectively utilized, with each successive track replaying a similar soft piano melody. Given that her music style is so unique, it is a shame that Bewitched does not lean further into her classical, symphonic style, which would elevate it beyond its synth-driven contemporaries.
Nonetheless, Bewitched has proven itself to be a triumphant sophomore release for Laufey, confirming her newfound status in the music world. Rather than sticking to her niche of cliché love songs, Laufey bravely delves into new, thoughtful motifs, incorporating a diverse array of themes ranging from personal growth to letting go of the past, effortlessly showcasing her versatility as an artist. Her passionate storytelling invites listeners to dance, cry, and contemplate with Laufey all at once, making for a truly bewitching album.