Album Reviews

Album Review: Liza Anne’s Bad Vacation Is The Soundtrack To A Bizarre 2020

This reference is specifically a shout-out to my fellow millennials: do you remember that viral Vine where there’s a bunch of umbrellas chaotically drifting down the beachfront in uncontrollable winds to the tune of “Run” by AWOLNATION? If not, I’ve linked it right here for your viewing pleasure.

That seven-second clip sums up how a lot of us are feeling in the year 2020. What was once something that was perceived as manageable (I’m looking at you, COVID-19), quickly escalated into a force that could never be reckoned with, or at least, one that can be ignored by our president until more Americans die, I suppose. A failed attempt to control this pandemic has quickly grown into something with no end in sight, just like the never-ending slew of umbrellas tumbling down the beach.

If the Vine I mentioned above is the video clip that encapsulates this weird, bizarre, and downright terrifying age we are living in, Liza Anne‘s Bad Vacation is most certainly the soundtrack. Through new wave bops, self-deprecating lyrics, and 80’s synths, Bad Vacation showcases Anne as her most powerful yet.

Screen Shot 2020-07-20 at 4.59.36 PMGrowing up in the sheltered town of St. Simons Island, Georgia, Liza’s first discovery of songwriting was uncovered at sleepaway camp. Later in life, she decided to move to Nashville to study her craft at Belmont University, eventually dropping out to pursue music full time. Her two self-released albums, The Colder Months and Two, have since generated more than 50 million streams on Spotify alone. Her breakout album, Fine But Dying, was released in 2018 via Arts & Crafts (Bombay Bicycle Club, Overcoats, Yoke Lore, & more), which garnered the attention of major outlets like NPR, Stereogum, and more. The success of Fine But Dying even led to sold-out shows with Kacey Musgraves, Ray LaMontagne, and a personal invite from Paramore’s Hayley Williams to be added on the bill for the band’s inaugural Art + Friends festival.

With great success comes great anxiety—at least for most of us. Anne has been very vocal about the mental health struggles that followed the rapid success of Fine But Dying, and it’s evident that the same struggles have morphed into inspiration for her music. Bad Vacation introduces new sounds to Anne’s repitoire, drawing comparions to artists like Courtney Barnett, St, Vincent, and Talking Heads, to name a few. It mainly reflects on Anne’s time on tour, where she was fresh out of an exhaustingly draining relationship.

I was a wreck. I left the relationship and was desperate to find emotional safety in someone else,” she said. “It felt better to have someone outside of me show me love than sit with myself long enough to learn how to show myself love. I was on a bender for emotional safety, not knowing that I could be my own healing space.

This epiphany led to intensive therapy sessions, where she was able to cope through songwriting.  “I was writing what I needed to hear. I literally wrote a stronger, more empowered version of myself into existence,” she said. Anne’s experience dealing with mental health struggles is evident in the album’s first full track, “Terrible Discovery,” where Anne comes to the realization that she may not like what she sees when she looks in the mirror. 

“I Shouldn’t Ghost My Therapist” is a real shining star on the album: a true and relatable testimony to how people view their relationships with their therapist. Dedicating the time and space to grow as a person can be difficult, especially when the thing you want to do most is ignore the people around you who are trying to help. This track starts off a set of four songs that are arguably the best chunk off the entire album. “Devotion,” a song that was released as the album’s lead single late last year, quickly became one of my favorites of 2019.

The dissonance between “I Shouldn’t Ghost My Therapist” and “Devotion” is clear, though they make up two pieces of the pie, the yin and the yang. We all love bits of ourselves and hate some of them too, but that doesn’t mean the good parts aren’t worth fighting for. We can exist in a space of wanting to work on ourselves, yet continuously remind ourselves of how far we’ve come, and how far we’ll go to fight for it.

“Change My Mind” is a track about inflamed egos and the refusal of criticism, but coming to the conclusion that maybe there is something (or someone) that can really break down our walls and help us ease up a little bit. “Bummer Days” hits on the complicated feelings of being your own worst enemy, and the even worse feelings of not knowing how to change it.

Bad Vacation encapsulates the multitudes of mental health, our good and bad days, and what it takes to make a change, even when you really, really don’t want to. In a time that feels suffocating, many of us have ended up unemployed (which is a lot better than being sick), and forced to look at ourselves in the mirror, reeling in an existential crisis of mixed feelings, confusion, resentment, and overall dread of living in permanent uncertainty. The important piece to take away from this Bad Vacation: no matter what happens to you, you always have yourself to wake up to and aim for a better day (and dodge those 100-mile-an-hour umbrellas).

Bad Vacation drops on your favorite streaming platform on July 24.

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