Alex Lahey’s Funny-Sad Pop-Punk Album ‘I Love You Like A Brother’ Is One Of 2017’s Best Debuts

Cultural Critic

Giulia McGauran

The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.

Every school has a resident music nerd, the kid who’s always wearing band shirts and toting musician biographies. At her school in Melbourne, Australia, Alex Lahey was that kid. “I remember reading Scar Tissue when I was way too young, and that’s like, a really good foray into the world of music writing, and biographies, and that sort of thing,” she recalled.

For Lahey, learning intimate details about Anthony Kiedis’ heroin habit in the ’80s and ’90s amounted to research for a future career. From the time she was 14, Lahey took a serious approach to learning about the craft of songwriting and the history behind it, spending her spare time poring over books and documentaries about music, first as an obsessive fan and then as a burgeoning artist. A decade later, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter’s single-minded focus has scarcely changed, which is evident on her sharp new album, I Love You Like A Brother, one of 2017’s best debuts. “I remember having a bit of a freakout the other week,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t have any hobbies outside of music or that aren’t somewhat music related.’ I really love it all, and I love learning about it, and I love learning about the stories behind it and the people behind it.”

On I Love You Like A Brother, Lahey spins yarns about that awkward time of life when you’re no longer a child and not quite a full-fledged adult, packing keen observations about family, relationships, and post-adolescent self-doubt inside bouncy bubblegum pop-punk songs. Lahey’s perspective is young but her level of skill as a songwriter is already formidable — she manages to sound both conversational and like an old pro, packaging her wry voice inside expertly executed pop tunes. The result is an album that is endlessly playable and catchy without ever being glib. Even when Lahey works in ear-candy mode, her words cut deep.

I Love You Like A Brother portends great things for Lahey, but she remains zeroed in on getting better at her job. “I know that I’m not the most talented musician out there. In fact, I’m very, very far from it,” she insisted. “I know that songwriting is a craft that you need to work on for a lifetime, and I really feel that the only reason why I am able to go to airport and write down “Musician” in the occupation part of the immigration card is because I just worked really, really hard.”

Naturally, given her background and pronounced Aussie accent, Lahey has already been compared with fellow Melbourne native Courtney Barnett, which she finds both flattering and kind of annoying. (“I think she’s awesome,” she said, “But comparing musicians in general kind of gets a bit boring, to be honest.”) For now, she’s looking ahead to the stateside tour in support of I Love You Like A Brother, which comes after her first foray into America this past spring around the time of South By Southwest.

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