|Album Review: Ailbhe Reddy − Personal History|
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There is a certain irony to debut albums. Meant to signify a new beginning, they're often touted as an artist's one true blueprint—the foundation for everything else that is yet to be built. In truth, though, a debut album usually arrives long after a string of single releases, revealing writing sessions, and countless weeks, possibly even months spent touring through intimate venues and local festival circuits. For Dublin native, Ailbhe Reddy, that album arrives today in the form of a a ten-track documentation of life throughout those years, aptly titled Personal History.
Personal History is not a foundation, nor a beginning. Rather, it's a compilation of stories and experiences, a bittersweet end to some, and a loving recollection of others. "The collection of songs I ultimately decided to put on this record are all linked to my desire as a songwriter to understand myself and those around me," she notes. "Writing is about being understood, music is therapy." Though she weaves introspection and self-discovery as a throughline in the record, she doesn't let it box her into any one sound. Exploring the trials of a long-distance relationship on "Between Your Teeth" and "Time Difference," she seamlessly sidesteps between a jangly indie pop hit, and a smooth, coffee-shop-on-a-rainy-day number. Before just easily transitioning into a slacker pop-meets-punk siren on the lamenting "Looking Happy." There is not a stone left unturned as Reddy bares it all on her debut record, not so much telling a story as airing out intrusive thoughts in the hope that they'll finally feel clean.
Having been written after a year spent studying psychotherapy, Reddy admits to revisiting the same clinical terms in many of her lyrics: ego, true intimacy, personal history, self improvement. But her writing never suffers from redundancy or repetition. Though many of the songs share the same scenario (a failing or struggling relationship), they all form their own unique storyline, soundtracked by an encouraging piano or a familiar guitar. On "Self Improvement," the timely closer, a licking guitar shadows her confessions, hesitant to stand out until she's ready to let it. But when she does, it frantically breaks into a raucous drum-backed catharsis, with her proudly leading the charge . She has finally faced herself—all of herself—and has come out the other end. Not better, not stronger, but with cherished memories behind her and more life ahead of her. This isn't a beginning, this is a never-ending journey, and she's ready to see where it takes her to next.