It’s excessively difficult to write a good pop song. Lily Konigsberg has written a lot of them. Hers are not conventional pop songs — they take the form of dizzying, fired-up indie rock or skittering electronic horn blasts or glittery psychedelic fantasias. Though Lily We Need To Talk Now is technically the Brooklyn-born songwriter’s debut full-length, Konigsberg has a long history of blending accessibility and the avant-grade. She is one-third of the artsy and dynamic Palberta, which got its start in 2013 when all its members were still in college. In 2017, she linked up with Matt Norman to form Lily And Horn Horse (a Best New Bands alum), making oddball synthesizer music like the delectable “Next To Me.” All that time, Konigsberg has also been putting out music under her own name, sporadically and in the past few years more methodically. Last year, she released It’s Just Like All The Clouds, one of the best EPs from 2020; earlier this year, those songs were bundled alongside some Bandcamp loosies on the “greatest hits” compilation The Best Of Lily Konigsberg Right Now.
But Lily We Need To Talk Now is her first proper full-length release as a solo artist. It carries the same attributes as the rest of her work: succinct and potent, a little slapdash but in an exciting way. And it boasts songs with some monster hooks. Look no further than “That’s The Way I Like It,” the album’s forceful lead single, in which Konigsberg plays defiant against a flurry of guitars and bashing drums. It’s a teetering layer of interlocking harmonies and forward momentum, the sort of song that Konigsberg excels at: a deceptively complex earworm that has a lot going on but feels almost rudimentary.
And though Konigsberg has her name front-and-center here, Lily We Need To Talk Now is a collaborative effort, roping in many of the people that she’s worked with over the years. Principal among them is Nate Amos, who sent the text message that inspired the album’s urgent-sounding title and produced the album alongside Konigsberg. (Amos is one-half of Water From Your Eyes and makes music on his own as This Is Lorelai. This summer, he launched a new band with Konigsberg called My Idea.) Also present are her Palberta bandmates Nina Ryser and Ani Ivry-Block, Lily And Horn Horse’s Matt Norman, the Cradle’s Paco Cathcart, and Andrea Schiavelli.
All those different collaborators means that the album is constantly jumping between different genres: The interior disco wriggle of “Alone” bleeds into the New Age-y, cinematic “Don’t Be Lazy With Me,” then blasts into action again with the puckish and punchy rock song “Proud Home.” Holding all this together are Konigsberg’s wry lyrics and emotive voice, which can be sweet and a little coy as she slings out melodic choruses, but can also be conversational and confrontational. “Sweat Forever” is punctuated by sarcastic asides, “Bad Boy” is stomping and fuzzy and filled with attitude, closer “True” sounds like a Best Coast song that’s been run through a blender. Lily We Need To Talk Now clocks in at only 24 minutes, but there are enough sounds here to justify double that runtime. As it exists, everything speeds by in an exhilarating blur.
Konigsberg is one of the many contemporary songwriters that see the underappreciated-in-his-time Arthur Russell as a guiding light. On “Hark,” she interpolates lyrics from Russell’s “The Letter” as she muses about the struggles and joys of the creative process. Konigsberg has similar aims with her own music, which is introspective and warm and consistently inventive. “I hate that I belong to a sound that needs my help or else it will die,” she sings on “Hark.” “I have every idea,” she laments, certainly a little tongue-in-cheek. But what makes Konigsberg’s music so arresting is her sheer ambition and that pure abundance of ideas. Lily We Need To Talk Now is as good of a showcase as any for all of Konigsberg’s ideas, which have been fine-tuned over the past decade enough so that her debut full-length sounds like a precise accomplishment but also like it’s barely scratching the surface of everything she has to offer.
Lily We Need To Talk Now is out 10/29 via Wharf Cat Records.
Other albums of note out this week:
• The War On Drugs’ I Don’t Live Here Anymore, which we’ll have more on later this week
• Mastodon’s Hushed And Grim
• Tori Amos’ Ocean To Ocean
• Marissa Nadler’s The Path Of The Clouds
• Mary Lattimore’s Collected Pieces II
• Lone’s Always Inside Your Head
• Lotic’s Water
• Geese’s Projector
• Bat Fangs’ Queen Of My World
• Lunar Vacation’s Inside Every Fig Is A Dead Wasp
• Charlotte Cornfield’s Highs In The Minuses
• Bad History Month and Nyxy Nyx’s split album Death Takes A Holiday
• Sam Evian’s Time To Melt
• Mick Jenkins’ Elephant In The Room
• Kayo Dot’s Moss Grew On The Swords And Plowshares Alike
• Billy Bragg’s The Million Things That Never Happened
• Jerry Cantrell’s Brighten
• Richard Ashcroft’s Acoustic Hymns Vol. 1
• Josh Freese’s Just A Minute, Vol. 1
• Furrows’ Fisher King
• Ed Sheeran’s =
• R.E.M.’s New Adventures In Hi-Fi 25th anniversary edition
• Ghostface Killah’s Ironman 25th anniversary edition
• Death Cab For Cutie’s The Photo Album deluxe edition
• Of Monsters And Men’s My Head Is An Animal 10th anniversary edition
• Katy B’s Peace And Offerings EP
• PLANNINGTOROCK’s Gay Dreams Do Come True EP
• Ben Special’s Ben Special Limited Liability Company EP
• Yellow Days & Ric Wilson’s Disco Ric In London Town EP