“You’re alone again, alone again,” Lily Mastrodimos sighs at one point on her debut record. “Don’t it hurt?” She spends the ten songs on Heights exploring this hurt, running the tender strands through her fingers and finding out where they fray and where they break. The album was written during the four years Mastrodimos was at college, and it bears all of the appropriate scars: missing home, hating everyone around you, hating yourself, growing up too fast and too slowly at the same time. “These are my stories, and they are mine to tell,” she affirms, and reiterates later: “These are my heartbeats, and they are mine to have, through the good and the bad.”
Mastrodimos is also a member of Jawbreaker Reunion, and the heavier songs here exhibit the same qualities as their best, moving along with the consistent chug of a marching band. But Heights largely revels in the quieter moments, the pauses between breaths. Her unfussy arrangements put an emphasis on her voice, which has a flat-footed quality to it that draws you in and keeps you close. “I stay up late and hold onto the dark/ I curl up to feel small,” she sings on the heart-wrenching centerpiece “Ludlow.” The album feels like that much of the time — the moments when you’re alone at night and thoughts are running through your head at a mile-a-minute, and you’re just trying to contextualize them all.
Heights uses its time to pick at old wounds, watching them heal over slowly. There’s a sense of passing time, of four years gone by that were filled with struggles but worth it in the end. At times Mastrodimos feels small, other times she is bigger than the world — “I want to run til breathless, I want to stand til weightless/ I don’t wanna stick around for the nonsense, so let me hide with the dust in your basement.” On the deftly picked “Salt,” she meditates: “Winter songs on repeat in a fall gloom/ Winter songs on repeat to be close to you.” Heights is an album with no season, or maybe it’s every season, or maybe it’s just the season when you feel most alone.
At the heart of it, Heights is an album about coming to terms with adulthood. There’s a sample from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on “Cetacean Nation,” right after Mastrodimos reminisces, “No, feet all hangin’ in a swimming pool/ No, feel like a kid staying home from school.” Mister Rogers is giving a lecture on bad behavior: “What does seem bad to you?” he asks. “Is it hitting other kids, or calling them names, or is it messing up a room, or saying ‘no, no, no’?” All of those problems pale in comparison to the darkness of the world after childhood. We all learn that the hard way.
Heights is self-released and out now.