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Gia Margaret - There’s Always Glimmer Music Album Reviews

The Chicago-based songwriter sees singing about personal experiences as an act of violence, but her debut LP translates that dark view into 34 minutes of serene, perceptive storytelling.

Gia Margaret makes folk music hand-stitched with subtle electronic embellishments, preserving emotional ordeals like depression and transition within cushioned vocal melodies. In a recent interview, the Chicago-based musician discussed her fear of hurting others with lyrics drawn from life, likening songs to weapons hurled out into the world. But on her debut album, There’s Always Glimmer, Margaret’s violent view of songwriting translates to 34 minutes of serene and perceptive storytelling.

“Groceries” opens the album on a vulnerable note, pairing her confessions with a somber, humming synth that resembles a droning growl. Margaret recounts how she tried writing about her woes but ultimately found comfort in a companion. “You took me in your arms and said, ‘Though it’s not easy to see, there’s always glimmer,” she sings, revealing the album’s title. “You bought the groceries/And you let the light in.” Even in the midst of a terrible year, the song suggests, the mundane experience of having someone else buy you groceries can be enough to sustain hope.

Margaret calls her music “sleep rock,” a term that captures the lullaby atmosphere of the album’s 12 songs. Combining elements of folk, ambient music, and shoegaze, her songs sometimes evoke the hushed melodies of the Postal Service or Nick Drake; images of moonlight spilling in through windows and fresh black coffee pouring into a cup have the detail of an Ansel Adams photograph. Even at times when the setting is vague, every scene is freighted with enough honest sentiment to create a vivid picture.

A classically trained pianist, Margaret awakens the instrument’s rawest and most graceful potential. Second single “Smoke” opens with a breathtaking prelude; her fingers glide across the keys like figure skaters. “For Flora” invents a new kind of lullaby, layering a piano composition over faded voicemails from her mother. High and low notes waltz together as her mom’s voice peeks out from between the keys: “Just wanted to make sure you don’t forget about me.”

Glimmer radiates nostalgia, but not longing. Despite the voyeuristic tone of her reminiscences, Margaret seems to understand that she can’t go back in time. On “Figures,” she sings of haunting shadows that remind her of an old lover: “The lights are on in the buildings downtown/And a figure inside moves like you.” But the illusion passes.

It’s uncertainty about the future that suffuses There’s Always Glimmer. These worries have Margaret walking alone, “searching for signs, like stones sinking into water” amid the trotting beat of “Exist,” a track that shares its drifting atmosphere with an Iron & Wine ballad. On the closer, “West,” she frets about her hyperawareness of the passage of time. Margaret’s ultimately futile battle with time is well fought: Her lullabies are hypnotic enough to delay the transitions she dreads—to stop the ticking clock—for half an hour, at least.

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