At the complex and dream-filled age of just twenty-one, Lauren Aquilina is an artist who shares her experiences of love and adolescence through sophisticated lyricism. With her fingers gliding over a piano, profound emotion laced between each word and her honey-glazed tones, Lauren is a talented individual oozing with authenticity. Having gained a large following through uploading covers on YouTube to then independently releasing her very own EP trilogy, it is no surprise that the release of her debut album Isn’t It Strange? caused a great deal of excitement.
We can see that a lot of care and hard work has gone into the album through Lauren’s decision to only include ten tracks, thus heightening the value of each song. She has left no room for carelessness as there is a sense of intricacy within each beat and the purposefully placed arrangement of lyrics.
Isn’t It Strange? addresses themes of complex relationships, heartbreak, human growth and understanding. The album begins with my favourite title, ‘Midnight Mouths’. Lauren explores the idea that we can be so careless with our tongues and can easily be tricked by the moment. The poignant lyrics “it’s just the lonely talking / so don’t you tell me that you’re falling for me now” contrasts with a lively rhythm, similar to a few of the other songs on her album like ‘Suddenly Strangers’ and ‘Hurt Any Less’. Initially I didn’t think that this worked, yet once I had heard the entire album I can conclude that it most definitely does work when considering its overall tone and message.
The contrast evinces how, despite the pain, it has allowed Lauren to grow and empower herself. Words like independence, power and control come to mind, particularly when listening to ‘Kicks’. A change within Lauren is evident, going from the lyrics, “‘Cause your love is worth a fortune / But my heart’s already broke” from her third EP ‘Liars’, to “I’m done being down about this’ in ‘Kicks’. It is this passion-fuelled tone that tells us of Lauren’s surety within herself, of a maturity that has developed over time.
This anger and emotion is further channelled in ‘How Would You Like It?’ Its beauty lies in its simplicity, as its beat is accompanied with raw vocals to create a heart-rending track. The inspiration is quite clearly a personal experience, hence making it one of the most evocative on the album. It’s very similar to ‘Kicks’, with lyrics like “who said I didn’t have the strength to leave?”; Lauren’s voice gradually intensifies to depict the change from naivety to courage.
Naivety appears to be another theme that Lauren touches upon in the album, specifically in ‘Wicked Game’ and ‘Hurt Any Less’. The former perhaps has the darkest lyrics on the album, “I’ve been thinking about death”, which is echoed in the intro’s heavy beat. ‘Wicked Game’ explores young love and the unpredictable nature of its outcome, whereas ‘Hurt Any Less’ presents the consequences of wishful thinking, even when aware of the relationship’s ephemerality. The lyrics are poetic and powerful in ‘Wicked Game’, “he said he didn’t do commitment with tattoos on his skin / maybe I wasn’t worth the pain”, creating a more vivid image of her emotions.
Lauren’s eloquent lyrics is what makes her a long-lasting talent, hence why ‘Thinking About’ is such a memorable track. The sensations that love can bring and its inescapable grasp is delineated, unlike ‘Way Too Good’ in which Lauren accepts change, “if nothing is meant to last / maybe we should drink to that.” Lauren’s cynicism and her disbelief at the good in her life is further embraced through the vibrant rhythm. ‘Suddenly Strangers’, however, is about unwanted change and the transient nature of human relationships. The lyrics, “I used to say you were my home / but now the house is empty / and I’m sleeping alone” epitomises the album title – isn’t the obscurity of growing up so strange? – hence why it’s included in the lyrics.
A live version of ‘Fools’ is the perfect addition to the album. As it was the title of Lauren’s first EP, including it in her debut album evinces how she hasn’t changed, but has simply evolved. ‘Fools’ is a gentle track and is the most stunning when stripped back to its simplest form. With lyrics like, “the anticipation before the kiss / mirrored in my shaking lips”, shedding a tear or two is inevitable. This conclusiveness is similarly mirrored in ‘Ocean’, an atmospheric and dreamy track in which the theme of freedom is explored. Lauren is liberating herself, learning to accept her past and progressing forward – a feeling that is beautifully echoed in its production.
The overall tone of the album is upbeat, more so than her original EPs, yet it’s Lauren’s lyricism that reminds us of who she truly is as an artist. Her lyrics, to me, resemble fragility in the wake of love. I would have liked to have seen slower-paced songs, perhaps in the same vein as her EP trilogy. However, Isn’t It Strange? symbolises Lauren’s journey whilst growing up and how she has empowered herself in spite of all of the hardships, hence why her sound has slightly changed. It reminds me of rain: heavy with experience but beautiful when appreciated from afar, almost like a collection of the lessons learnt over the course of her adolescent years.
Words by Nabeela Saghir