“Good Riddance,” Gracie Abrams (Interscope Records)
The title for Gracie Abrams’ debut album is referenced early in its opening track, “The Best.” She admits: “You’re the worst of my crimes/You fell hard/I thought, ‘good riddance.'” As the music intensifies, so do the depths of her admissions.
Those confessions set the tone for the album that follows: This is a diary, and one whose author is well aware that everyone can do wrong. The immediacy of that intimacy forms an agreement between the artist and her listeners that the 12 tracks, co-written and produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, will hold honest self-reflection.
At 23, Abrams has a knack for the sort of vulnerable songwriting that grabs you in quiet moments, the kind that finds fans because it is empathetic and personal. It’s something she’s studied by listening to artists like Taylor Swift, who she’ll tour with this spring. And something she’s already taught — Olivia Rodrigo cited Abrams’ influence when releasing her own confessional song “driver’s license.”
Abrams considers the nuances of growing up on “Right Now” — “left my past life on the ground/Think I’m more alive somehow” — and pines on “Full Machine”: “I’m a shameless caller/You’re a full machine/But won’t you answer tonight and say something nice to me.” “I Know It Won’t Work” pairs a heartbeat-like drumbeat with pleading reflections: “What if I’m not worth the time and breath I know you’re saving?”
Abrams’ words are strongest when she centers her youth, probing her emotions in a way that acknowledges possible naiveté. Instead of relief or anger, this “good riddance” is tinged with guilt, regret and unanswered questions — feelings that pair well with Abrams’ raw, breathy vocals.
Dessner’s collaboration brings a stripped back direction to the tracks, evident in the emotive acoustics of “Amelie” and “This is What the Drugs Are For.” While the production is at times repetitive, moments on “Good Riddance” see Dessner channel the same acoustic wonder of Swift’s “folklore,” also recorded at his Long Pond studio, through violin trills and isolated piano melodies.
The album’s penultimate track, “The Blue,” is transcendent and refreshingly hopeful, relying on a common turn of phrase to describe the beginnings of a new relationship: “You came out of the blue like that/ I never could’ve seen you coming/I think you’re everything I’ve wanted.”
That chorus is an enduring earworm, the kind that enters your brain passively, as if to remind you of Abrams’ very dilemma: Situations can always change. And while the song is not rid of the anxiety that imbues the album — “what are you doing to me now?” she repeats throughout — it feels like an awakening.
If “Good Riddance” were a color palette, “The Blue” would be the lightest shade in a sea of navy, gray and deep purples.
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