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Chia seeds are a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, plus they have fiber, iron and calcium. Here they're mixed with a fruity base and refrigerated until the chia seeds expand to form a thick, creamy texture similar to tapioca. Pudding for breakfast? We're in.

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Laura Stevenson - The Big Freeze Music Album Reviews

On her fifth solo album, the New York musician both evolves as a singer-songwriter and grows in confidence, addressing heavy emotional themes with candor and grace.

Laura Stevenson has been a solo artist for over a decade, but only now, with her fifth album, does she truly sound like one. The New York musician’s career began in the DIY ska-punk band Bomb the Music Industry! before she peeled off to write her own material, often with friends rallying behind her in her backing band, the Cans. But after releasing the indie-pop record Cocksure, in 2015, she got married, bought a house, and adopted a dog. It’s within these domestic comforts that Stevenson found the courage to confront her demons after years of lyrically hinting at them. The result is The Big Freeze, a record where Stevenson makes her voice and guitar the focus, basks in minimal orchestration, and dissects her past in hopes that she can, finally, detach herself from its grasp.


Ironically, Stevenson sounds her most professional and polished when scrambling to make things work. Lacking the money to book a proper studio, she trekked to her childhood home in Long Island to record—a bold decision, given that her relationship with her mother is complicated at best—and later added violin and upright bass in her newly purchased home, days after closing the deal. It was life coming full circle, her prepubescent memories contrasting with adult strides. Though these songs came together after four years of intermittent writing, the arrangements were fleshed out in real time while recording; a jazz-rooted drummer added percussion and a cellist who could play by ear mirrored Stevenson as she sang her the string parts. Through this process, Stevenson used piano, guitar, cello, and French horn to cushion her cascading vocals on songs like opener “Lay Back, Arms Out” and the colossal “Low Slow.” It makes Stevenson’s personable songwriting sound massive by, counterintuitively, scaling the volume back.

If the vocal runs on The Big Freeze highlight Stevenson’s growth as a singer, then the transparency of her lyrics underlines her confidence as a person. While she’s no stranger to mining difficult memories, Stevenson digs deeper than ever before on The Big Freeze, as if unafraid of the potential avalanche it could dislodge. On its surface, the album focuses on the emotional complexity of relationships. It’s her exploration of loneliness and depression, though, that sees Stevenson grow as a singer-songwriter. “You are burdened by only your dangerous mind,” she sings regretfully on “Hum,” sounding more akin to Jason Molina than she did Rilo Kiley on Wheel. On “Big Deep V2,” she belts so clearly that you can practically hear the double-tracked harmonies fill every room in her mother’s house. Even as she steadies herself for the mundanities of her thirties in “Living Room, NY,” she’s content to point out her biggest flaws. Stevenson is a tour guide in her own museum of self-reckoning.

Stevenson tackles her biggest problem—self-harm, mainly through chronic skin-picking—on “Value Inn” and “Dermatillomania” with grace. On the former, each pluck of the electric guitar
hangs in the air like icicles. The latter, as the only upbeat number on the album, feels like an obvious metaphor for how people hide their scars. Maybe it’s because of the fluidity of these song structures, or how saddened Stevenson sounds while singing them, but her vulnerability feels like a physical presence in the songs. After completing them, Stevenson says she expected a sudden healing, as if her struggle with self-harm would evaporate because it was finally acknowledged explicitly instead of discreetly. It didn’t, of course, but for a moment, during the blissed-out instrumental ending of “Dermatillomania,” it’s tempting to believe it did.

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A decade after making her solo debut, Stevenson has found her sweet spot as a singer-songwriter. The emotionally barbed storytelling, stripped-down delivery, and orchestral flair weave together symbiotically, a testament to how far Stevenson has come as a musical autodidact. Above all, it’s her voice that makes The Big Freeze such a raw, therapeutic listen. When she repeats the heart-wrenching declaration “I am honest” throughout “Big Deep V2,” it feels like an attempt to make peace with herself after a lifetime of being at war, an offer she can’t quite accept. No wonder being a singer-songwriter is scarier on your own.



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