Three years have passed since Sarah Walk released debut album Little Black Book, and much has changed. Cut to the 28th August 2020, and we find the LA-based artist releasing her sophomore album Another Me (Little Indiependent). Exposing as it does an artist possessing renewed vigour, the EP’s title could easily be referring to her authentic self. Spending time with Walk’s latest offering is to glimpse inside her head. Every little detail is told her way, as a result of her lived experiences. The album is a heart-on-sleeve indie record, refreshing in its honesty as the LA songwriter comes to terms with her flaws. Drawing on a formidable inner strength, the singer gives context to her personal battles, challenging societal structures which once sought to confine artists like her.
As far as opening tracks go, you’ll struggle to find one which sets the tone quite as starkly as ‘Unravel’. Confronting “men who grew up with no consequences”, the single’s opening seconds set up a direct challenge to an industry which Walk feels fails to accommodate the female voice. Her lyricism is sharp, and stings in its poetry. There’s no shortage of self-awareness either; the Californian is quick to mock that “no one likes an angry woman”. It’s a significant opening statement which places Walk firmly in control of the stories she’s about to tell. Yes, her music will draw on themes of love and relationship struggles, but as a queer woman the artist will do so through her own lens and experiences – rather than as a result of any pre-determined societal standards.
Yet, despite the opening track’s scathing certainty, it’s difficult to pin Sarah Walk’s music down to a specific genre. Instrumentals which accompany Walk’s vocals shift and weave from contemporary electronic beats to old-school piano ballads. Lyrically, however, there is consistency in Walk’s wondering aloud. ‘What Do I Want’ is characteristically transparent, yet far less self-certain than the album’s opener. The title question reverberates alongside an electronic beat which spirals into a crescendo. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music (St Vincent), it’s unsurprising that Walk is able to masterfully weave lyrics with instrumental production. Co-produced with Leo Abrahams, the album’s atmospheric sound is comparable with the likes of Another Sky and London Grammar. There is just as much power in some of the tracks’ overwhelming quiet as when instrumentals rush to support Walk’s echoing vocals.
There are certainly considerable moments of doubt in Walk’s narrative. ‘Nobody Knows’, for instance, takes the listener deep into the anxieties which come from trying to be creative when going through a period of depression. Yet, although certainly introspective, Walk doesn’t veer into hopelessness. ‘Another Me’, recognises the potential for a fresh start: “another me is waiting / and I won’t let her die”. It’s an acknowledgment that the singer isn’t screaming into a void but marks an acceptance of the reality that “nobody knows” which gives the album such universal appeal. At a time when so many are questioning life choices, relationship decisions and self-understanding, there is comfort to be found as the American considers that she has been guilty of “waiting for another moment to come my way.” It is significant that Walk recognises her ability to improve her situation. There is a firm assertiveness in ‘The Key’, Walk asserting “I’ve got my feelings they don’t got me”. If Walk is searching for answers, she finds them within herself rather than from any outside influence.
Though themes of soul-searching stimulate a universal appeal in this uncertain climate, it’s clear that the album is a deeply personal and significant project for Walk. There are tender moments when the lights dim, and the singer-songwriter is left alone with her piano. ‘Crazy Still’ is an unashamed love song, with suddenly delicate and vulnerable vocals. It’s an embodiment of those moments just after a breakup when the world seems to both stand still and fast forward simultaneously; “I was crazy to love you / I must be crazy still” mourns Walk. It’s a track which sees the artist drift back into consciousness following the hazy and instrumentally driven ‘The Outside’ which precedes it.
In this confused world, it’s fitting that Walk finishes with an ellipsis rather than a full stop. Final track ‘No Good Way to Say Goodbye’ is a therapeutic acceptance of not having all the answers. It’s a welcome maturity which shows Walk’s growth as an artist. With Another Me the Californian has graduated from debut Little Black Book’s more typical indie-rock leanings into a more experimental and thought-provoking singer-songwriter. Like love and hate, this album makes you realise that power and vulnerability are more closely related than you might think. This is exposed no more clearly than in those moments where Walk opens up, facing up to the neediness inherent to all of us.
Words by Adam Goldsmith
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