To All The Boys Emily Kinney Has Loved Before

By Rhiannon Levengood

With her third studio album Oh Jonathan, Emily Kinney introduces her fans to a brand new sound that combines her iconic indie, pop vibe with a fresh synthesized feel. The tracklist includes fan favorites like “Same Mistakes”, “Jonathan”, and “Popsicles”, three songs that any diehard Emily Kinney ‘Lover’ would know, but still delivers a record completely unheard by anyone before. Oh Jonathan exhibits Kinney’s personal and musical growth, confidence, and ongoing desire to be loved in a way that’s short, sweet, and sometimes even explicit.

Oh Jonathan begins like a regular Emily Kinney show would with her song “Same Mistakes”. It opens her journey of finding true love by telling us that the rest of these songs will be about navigating her options and making both terrible and great decisions along the way. She expertly sets the tone for the rest of her record by slowly introducing her new electronic sound with an older song, perfectly blending two vibes into one. Kinney’s gentle voice tells a love story about returning to a relationship that is most likely toxic for her. She knows that she has a man who is ideal for anyone else, but her heart really belongs to this other guy, even if it hurts to love him sometimes, which is a lesson she’ll learn time and again.

“Same Mistakes” also portrays Emily’s confidence in herself and what she wants, especially when it comes to her romantic and sexual relationships. The first track effortlessly transitions into “Mortal”, another song that uses a synthesized beat to drive it forward. It recounts a story of a blossoming love, not yet complicated, but also not going anywhere either. The two share a love that’s exciting in the beginning stages, but as it progresses, it sort of dies out. Does he love her the way she loves him? Does he feel that connection like she does? It’s that uncertainty that keeps Kinney around.

Emily’s album continues with another one of her older (finally recorded!), but one of her best written songs. “Jonathan” has a very simple guitar riff that helps you focus on the creative, metaphorical lyrics. Emily and “Jonathan” are complete opposites, but they complement each other so well that Emily feels really drawn to him. She’s a ray of sunshine, and he’s a cloudy day, but his mysterious demeanor makes him interesting and addictive. The only problem is that the love Kinney feels is unrequited, so the song ends with her hoping for “Jonathan” to make his way back to her in the future.

Oh Jonathan takes a poppier turn with “Soda Glass”, a song about a fragile kind of love. It’s another story that burns out too quickly and leaves Kinney hopelessly heartbroken. While the affair is over, she is still kind of hopeful for a restart. “Soda Glass” is a little reminiscent of Emily’s song “In” from her debut EP Blue Toothbrush with similar lyrics. For example, in “In” Kinney describes her New York City apartment:

“You helped paint the walls, but got dirt on the carpet/But I didn’t mind cause you’re all that I wanted/Ignored broken glass/Forgave each small sin/Each time you knocked, I let you in,” which directly relates to: “I got your notes on napkins/And my blood on your walls/Our soda glass love could only take so many falls.”

The same theme of feeling used and thrown away continues into “Popsicles”. This song was initially released on Kinney’s second EP Back On Love, and originally had an acoustic guitar and piano instrumental track. The percussion parts were subtle and sounded like classroom instruments, giving the song an innocent vibe. For its rerelease on Oh Jonathan, “Popsicles” was given a new production, making it more upbeat and electronic to fit in with the rest of the record. The slight change makes me believe that Emily’s feelings regarding this song have changed over the past two years. Maybe she’s not as angry or hurt as she was when she first released it, and now she’s able to reimagine its sound and put more into its production.

“Drunk and Lost” is an almost love ballad that Emily sings for a guy she meets at a party. She tries enticing him to take her home, and if it all feels wrong, they can call any advances an accident in the morning. Again, her confidence in her sexuality and her desire to feel some love is evident here.

The steady buoyant vibe of the record slows down for “Loser”, a song Emily uses to smear an ex-lover. She incessantly asks him how it feels to not be good enough for her by comparing him to her current lover, and to his own past. The lyrics are transparent and vulgar, but flawlessly execute her emotions over their relationship’s demise. She builds up her self-worth by tearing him down in a way that’s almost empowering. Another difference between this song and the rest of the album is the use of a saxophone part during the bridge, that may or may not be a message in itself to the ‘loser.’

Oh Jonathan comes to a close far too soon with Emily Kinney’s two singles “Mermaid Song” and “Boy Band Hero.” Both of these tracks have a dreamy feel to them instrumentally and carry the ever-present theme of finding love and eventually moving on from it. “Mermaid Song” in particular showcases Kinney’s independence in a relationship that isn’t really going the way she wants it to, while “Boy Band Hero” reminds us that she’s always dreaming of falling in love.

To all the boys that Emily Kinney has loved before, thank you. Your imperfections and inabilities to love as deeply as Emily has given us yet another beautifully written record.

You can check Emily out on her Same Mistakes Tour across the US this fall, and give her a follow on Twitter and Instagram.

lovelytheband’s “finding it hard to smile”: unedited review

By Rhiannon Levengood

Lovelytheband has a very explicit way of using their music and lyrics to portray the day-to-day struggles of battling depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, and how that can affect relationships and everyday life. The trio’s debut album finding it hard to smile as a whole embodies the hold that mental disorders have on your life, your social interactions, and your productivity. So, in the spirit of having no energy to get out of bed, combating anxiety-induced writer’s block, and tackling a complete lack of motivation to create something beautiful enough to do this record justice, I present you with my unedited notes.

finding it hard to smile – lovelytheband

finding it hard to smile (prelude):
The vibe is mystical and serene. Almost hypnotizing in how meditative it is. I’m really enjoying it already. The build toward the end of this prelude transitions well into the first song.

pity party:
The guitar riff in the beginning is so mellow and feels like it doesn’t completely reach my ears. The vocals remind me of a song that’s popular on the radio but idk what it is yet, so I’ll figure it out. The vibe is really…upbeat and feel good, even when the lyrics aren’t entirely the same way. the song explains depression and anxiety, and how it affects someone’s social life. The first verse talks about how hard it is to find the energy to get out of bed and go out when you’re overcome with anxiety. The chorus itself reminds me of “Fake Happy” by Paramore in that they put on a fake smile when out partying with friends. Verse 2 goes on to explain how this person copes with their mental illness by treating themselves to things that make them happy. They even explain how being on their phone, connected to a world outside their own, makes them feel less lonely. This song is 100% relatable. Definitely sounds like a song that would be played on the radio.

make you feel pretty:
This song is SO FUCKING CATCHY. So basically, it’s telling the story of a girl who’s trying to make it famous in LA. She’s part of the drug scene and this guy is head over heels, trying to make her feel pretty and make her feel worthy, then the guy falls into the scene by becoming addicted to the lady, and alcohol maybe?? This song is so good. I wanna dance to it and scream it with the windows rolled down. The instrumentals are so feel good. I love this song so much.

broken:
Oh. I just figured out they sound like their own band that I’ve heard on the radio. LMFAO okay so we all know this song. It’s super catchy and overplayed on the radio, but it’s a good song that’s overplayed. Like, you don’t get pissed off and change the station. You’re like yes, this song is good let me turn it up. The song is about meeting a chick at a party and comparing battle scars. They’re both broken and both lonely, and life’s fucking them up, but they have each other. The bridge sorta makes us all seem like puzzle pieces waiting to become whole with someone else. The song has a hopeful spirit to it and the synth is always good to dance to.

alone time:
Much slower than the first few songs. There’s a driving beat that’s nice. Another song about mental illness probably. So basically, they’re feeling lonely, and in a quiet, lonely world, depression tends to kick into overdrive. They want to spend this alone time with someone else because maybe depression won’t be so loud, then. There’s a little guitar solo that’s nice. It reminds me of the beach, like I wanna hear this on the shore, margarita in hand, seagulls begging for fries.

these are my friends:
This song is kind of really cute. I think it’s talking about the voices of people who have given you advice your entire life, and taught you as you’ve grown up, and now you’re remembering those little mantras from them as you navigate life, find love and company, meet people and lose people. In the second verse, I think the friends are drugs/alcohol, though. So first it’s your conscience, then it’s what you drown your conscience out with, but both coping mechanisms work for you, they are your friends.

coachella:
This song is starting really mellow. Instrumentally, it sounds like a song that would be on a car commercial. Okay, so this song has a free spirit like morale. “We were young, we were beautiful” just reminds me of having the time of your life and laughing and living without thinking about tomorrow or the consequences. It reminds me of those drug/party scenes from Skins. In fact, the instrumentals remind me of the Skins theme song. I’ve never been to Coachella, but I like to think that’s how people feel during the festival. Carefree. This is such a relaxing jam. I might learn it on uke.

filling a void (interlude):
So, I listened to the entirety of this song before I typed up notes for it. It reminds me, again, of Paramore’s “Fake Happy”, but the intro verse of it. The lyrics alone are really beautiful, and describe an unrequited love. I really love how the vocals sound like they’re being played on a synthesizer, it kind of gives the message an automated vibe. Almost as if it hurts too much to sing the words yourself, you have to let a machine do it.

your whatever:
Ooh, it fades right into this song. At first, this sounds like a love song, but I think it’s a lost love song. It’s like a post breakup song. The lyrics are describing an unconditional love, telling this girl that he’ll be her whatever so long as they’re together, you know? Even if she smokes cigarettes, which he hates, he still loves her and her free spirit and the way she idolizes the 70s. The instrumentals are really simple sounding, but it complements the story really well. I love this song a lot. I think it’s my favorite so far.

maybe, i’m afraid:
This song is a little aggressive, but not in a bad way. It gives me this like…panicky feeling, like when you’re arguing with someone and you know it’s going to end badly and you don’t want it to ruin your relationship, so you’re trying to say anything that’ll make it all stop. I really love that I can truly envision the scene, a couple drunk on champagne, dancing around their living room maybe just getting home from a party. She’s singing Frank Sinatra out of tune and he’s pulling her closer because right now, all they have is love. I feel like they’re on the verge of a breakup, but nights like these happen and remind them why they’re still fighting for one another. It’s a really pretty ballad.

emotion:
The instrumentals are super mellow, but also kinda funky during the verses. It’s about wanting to receive more out of a relationship that’s sort of tanking slowly. It kind of feels like a friendship more than a romantic relationship, honestly. But basically, the other person isn’t really showing interest in the relationship anymore and our singer wants more from them. I really like the guitar riffs in this song.

walk from here:
Ahh! I love this song. I love the lyrics, “I might be no good/Sweetie you’re no better/We used to be sugar/And now all I taste is bitter” just because it’s so so so relatable. When arguments happen, each side always thinks they’re better than the other, but in all honestly, we’re all horrible to one another at some point. I also really love the lines, “There’s no need to drive me crazy/Honey, I can walk from here” because it’s clever in a self-sabotaging way.

stupid mistakes:
I really enjoy the synth and beat feel of this song. I think everyone can relate to the lyrics because it tells a story of a guy who’s still in love with an ex significant other and even though they don’t want to talk to him, he calls/texts them from time to time when he’s drunk or lonely. “My brain holds too many poisons/They helped me make the wrong choices” is one of my favorite lyrics from this song just because I understand battling demons and doing the wrong thing because of them. I also really love the death imagery with the lines, “And it’s my fault that I live my life/Running away from ghosts/Too many skeletons/Too hard to keep them in the closet where they’ve been.” I love songs that have CLAP CLAP parts because they’re the most fun to sing while driving, and “stupid mistakes” has that.

make believe:
Oh oh ohohohohohoh I love this song just because it’s savage af. He’s dragging this girl he likes because she lives with her parents and doesn’t have to pay rent, and hosts pity parties for herself, and never follows through with plans. She’s basically this toxic sort of person that’s hard to love because she won’t open up. There’s a call back to the song “filling a void.” The guitar part is really dancey, giving the song a nice groovy vibe.

i like the way:
“You seem cool/I seem anxious” is a mood. This song is so catchy and feels like it should be on the radio. I’d love to see this song live, standing in a crowd that’s jumping to the beat and screaming the lyrics. It’s about having a love that is far from perfect, and hurts a lot sometimes, but is truly the best thing you’ve ever had. The two people are complete opposites, but they work so well together.

everything I could never say…to you:
This song is so serene and so sincere. It’s heartwarming in a way, too, because there’s just all this love pouring out for someone who isn’t ready for it. It hurts to lose this person, but there’s also an element of understanding, too. Again, the vocals have an echoey, synthesized sound to them, which is relaxing. This song honestly brings the record to such a wonderful and hopeful end, really.

Be sure to follow lovelytheband on Instagram and Twitter, and if you like what you hear, you can catch them on tour now!


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My writing process is usually very strategic. When I sit down to write a review on a full-length album, I open Spotify, Genius.com, and a word document. I read the lyrics as I listen to the record and take notes on each song. The notes are usually sporadic and pieces of thoughts, but they are my initial reactions to each song on the record. After a much needed food break, I’ll come back to my notes, pull out common themes, and build an article that translates my impressions from a verbose mess to a cohesive, readable piece.

It sounds very easy, but sometimes I struggle to find the motivation to take that final step. I have the words in my head, I know what I want to express, but I can’t form sentences that will make sense to our readers while giving the band the well-versed recognition they deserve. My own insecurities tie into my writer’s block and create anxiety as I write a review. Sometimes, I wish I could just keyboard smash my way through a piece, using CAPS to emphasize my love for a certain lyric, and !!! when I don’t have real words to convey my excitement over a key change. Sometimes, being formal is mentally draining on an already exhausted mind, so I’ve tried something different this time. I’m publishing those chaotic notes; the unedited, uncensored, and completely raw reviews. Maybe I’m just being lazy, or maybe it’s actually creative art.

Emily Kinney Reminisces on “Boy Band Hero”

By Rhiannon Levengood
Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

With her soft, innocent voice and distinct, creative lyrics, Emily Kinney gifts us with a brand new single “Boy Band Hero” straight off her third full-length album Oh Jonathan, due to release August 24. Similar to her last single “Mermaid Song”, Kinney’s newest release takes on the same rounded, electronic vibe as she experiments with beats and synthesizers, as opposed to her typical acoustic guitar and keyboard combo. The new sound is fresh and showcases her vocals so well, giving her music a more mature energy than before.

“Boy Band Hero” begins with a gentle beat and sets an illusory scene of a younger Emily daydreaming in the middle of class about her “boy band hero from junior high.” Throughout the lecture, she dreams about meeting him at a concert, the two falling in love, and just as her daydream is getting good, her teacher slaps a ruler against her desk and snaps her right back to reality. The instrumentals, especially during the bridge, directly portray that dreamlike trance of staring out the classroom window.

The music video for “Boy Band Hero” is reminiscent of Kinney’s high school days and includes pictures from her childhood along with staged footage of kids attending school and football games to effectively paint the illusion of being a hopeless romantic teen again.

Emily Kinney’s new single mirrors two of her older songs, “Rockstar” and “Kids.” In “Rockstar”, she describes her plans of marrying the frontman of a rock band, following him on tour, and growing old with him. The song is hopeful in contrast to “Boy Band Hero”, which could be viewed as Kinney giving up on her dream of living that glamorous, rockstar life with her beau: “Oh, oh, oh, I’m sending up a prayer. Oh, oh, oh, a little goodbye cry for that boy band hero from junior high.”

“Kids” is a single off Kinney’s debut album Expired Love and recounts a story of the pure kind of love that children have. It’s fearless and carefree, young and naive, shiny and new. “Boy Band Hero” alludes to “Kids” directly with the line, “grass-stained jeans, my head in the clouds,” which parallels with, “wash off all your grass stains, I’ll pull off my shoes” from “Kids.”

This little peek into Emily Kinney’s new album is just what her fans needed to get them excited enough to pre-order Oh Jonathan in various merch bundles on her PledgeMusic page. Stay tuned for August 24 and make sure to follow Emily on Twitter and Instagram so you don’t miss out on a possible tour before the end of 2018!