Having heard as much Laura Stevenson as I could have possibly found with only the Internet and my own mediocre brain guiding me, I have gone through every emotional phase that a musician such as Laura can ensue. After her last album, The Wheel (which, surprisingly, had a huge country influence) was released, I think all Laura Stevenson listeners were curious on what she was going to do next. The Wheel caused a ton of mixed feelings for fans. Fans that have followed her since her days with Bomb the Music Industry!, felt sort of abandoned, as there was a loss of the true punk roots in the album. Those who listen to Laura because of her lyrics, however, saw an intense maturity in the way that Laura explained her turmoil and past. In past records, such as A Record, Laura has a beautiful sense of vulnerability, but much of the charm and pain is pushed in to her songs with a wall of metaphors that are impossible to decode fully, though easily decoded into blurry feelings and grey outlooks. The Wheel showed a much stronger focus on literal lyrics, still powered by Laura’s raw and enormous vocal range.
So where are we after that album? We have an eerie folk album, with A Record; we have a poppy punk (NOT pop punk) record with Sit Resist, and an alt-country/folk punk record with The Wheel. LAURA, WHERE ARE YOU TAKING US?!?!
Naturally, Laura didn’t move in the direction that would make her a pop star, though she has the talent to do so. Instead, she created Cocksure, an emotionally raw album that leans most of its weight on Laura’s punk roots. In this album you hear a harsh amount of self-pity (not the same self-pity that The Weeknd uses) that reminds me of the cautionary tales she tells in songs like
“Caretaker” and “Beets Untitled”, with an added dose of numbness to the world. The guitar work, exemplified in “Sit Resist”, has a fantastic way of working on and off with the drums and Laura’s voice to crescendo the grit of the lyrics. Pulling back to her roots, taking away much of the beautiful violin used in The Wheel, Cocksure adds light tints of accordion, bringing the folk punk enthusiasts hope.
The only generally positive song on this album is the first song that was released, “Torch Song”, in which she takes a different perspective than the rest of the record, and talks about someone that is not herself. It has hints of a long distance relationship or a break up that is physically close, but emotionally distant. The simplicity of the song keeps the viewer unclear about why this turmoil is happening, as the lyrics only speak of the turmoil. Again, Laura is behind her wall.
This romantic wall may never come down for Laura; however, her shame wall is taken down with the next song on the album, “Jellyfish”. Jellyfish emulates anxiety, exhaustion, and numbness to world, in possibly the most truthful and clearly that I have ever heard. She uses the metaphor of a jellyfish as something that is not to be touched. As someone with social anxiety, this rang more than true with me, and I often feel that I cannot help but sting those that talk to me, when I am feeling some kind of way.
Grouping three of her similar songs together, “Ticket Tape”, “Fine Print”, and “Tom Sawyer/You Know Where to Find Me”, I can explain the three angles of this album. These three songs create the slow, horribly fragile, yet guarded feeling of the album. In these songs, one can feel Laura’s loss of faith in people, including herself. With the lyrics, “there is a monster in my clothes,” she screams, “get away from me,” in a similar way to the way she screams, “stay away from me,” in “Beets Untitled”. These slower songs of warning are complimented by ode’s to anxiety such as “Claustraphobe”, that talk about the inward struggles of her own mind.
The most interesting song on this album is “Happier, etc.” It is the most interesting song, because it tells a story of someone that was clearly close to Laura, but has a way of making Laura upset and in a horrible mood. The clear self-pity in this song is shown by the implied notion that Laura knows that this person has a bad influence on her, but she does not realize it until this person is gone. This is such a relatable subject, and again, Laura puts something in to words, that I never could myself, and she does it so simply.
Cocksure, released on Don Giovanni records, is a fantastic album from start to finish. The content varies heavily but keeps your mood in a fluctuation of grey tones, as Laura creates a cautionary tale of herself and prints a clear warning sign on to her personality. Despite the warning, I want to keep listening to this album. The inner-suffering she faces is not only, brutal, but relatable. Described, perfectly with her lyrics, “Does it hurt more, where you are? Can you make due?” Laura has torn out my heart and tied it beautifully together with twine as I slowly drip super glue into it, hoping that will somehow help.
MARCUS SHRIVER | Sleeper-Kittey | KXSU Head Reporter