In her debut EP ‘God, I Hate This Place,’ Nashville-based indie rock artist Annie DiRusso reminds us that self-acceptance is the best way to make it through life.
‘God, I Hate This Place’ – Annie DiRusso
I hope I’m not being too presumptuous when I say our early twenties are an interesting time.
In terms of both age and responsibilities, we are adults, and yet the rest of society treats us as if we are too young to be taken seriously and to really know anything. It’s a societal grey area, one that Nashville-via-New York singer/songwriter Annie DiRusso was thrust into when she wrote and recorded the entirety of her debut EP God, I Hate This Place (released February 24, 2023). While living in the in-between can be full of uncertainty, it also provides ample opportunities to push creative boundaries, and true to form, DiRusso delivered on that exploration. In an interview with What’s Trending, she clarified that the “place” referred to in the title is not a physical place (and definitely not her hometown of Croton-on-Hudson). But it’s actually a place in her mind she continued finding herself stuck in, and where she was when she wrote all five songs that make up the EP.
The order of the tracks plays like a coming-of-age narrative about coming to terms with your identity. The first song, “Emerson,” named after the street DiRusso grew up on, explores the regression we all feel when we return to our childhood home after moving away. The stark juxtaposition between honest, almost deadpan, lyrics like “Baptized by a pedophile” and the upbeat guitar riffs and silly whoops in the background further explore the uncertain discomfort felt in these moments. The line, “Guess I’ve only ever been who I was” is our first introduction to the theme of self-acceptance, one of the key messages of God, I Hate This Place. This idea lingers in every song on the EP and is explored in both its celebratory and cynical meanings.
Well lying in my bed you said
I’ll never meet anyone like you
Well I just laughed it off at the time
But now I’m terrified that it’s not true
When I finally feel like I’ve moved on
I keep ending up back where I was
Guess I’ve never escaped you for too long
It’s the morning I’m just waking up
So I’ll get out of bed
Put my shoes on
All my bookshelves are covered in dust
Guess I’ve never escaped me for too long
Guess I’ve only ever been who I was
– “Emerson,” Annie DiRusso
“Body,” the next song to follow, and arguably the most personal, continues this comparison of discomfort from then versus now. In a quieter, stripped-back arrangement, DiRusso transparently comments on the progress she’s made in her relationship with her body. While realizing that it will never be a perfect relationship, she is also able to take a step back and appreciate the growth she has made since she was 13 and “so fucking worried about things that don’t matter now.”
“Frisco Forever” reminds us that while a change of scenery can be nice, it will never actually be enough. No matter where we go, we will always bring ourselves, baggage included.
He loves my face, but not my body
Should I lose weight
Just so he’ll want me?
When I was young
Mom terrified me
I hate to admit it
She really got me
Not really one for trying to be
who you want me to be
I leave it in different places
I know it’s still following me
– “Body,” Annie DiRusso
In “Nauseous” and “Hybrid,” DiRusso focuses more on relationships, and how we tend to struggle reconciling what we want with what is good for us. “Nauseous” is about trying so hard to make something work when it was never meant to be. The song plays like a puppy love-fueled fever dream, fervently trying to impress the listener and win over our adoration. DiRusso describes going so far to please someone else that all the changes she’s made to herself make her feel physically nauseous.
On the flip side, “Hybrid” represents the acceptance of finally ending things. DiRusso may really like this person, but there are too many irreconcilable differences for it to last. Once again, the instrumentation of the song builds around this idea. The vacillation between the verses and the chorus play like DiRusso arguing with herself on whether to continue or not. On one hand, the love hasn’t died yet, but on the other, she realizes this type of love isn’t healthy.
I’m soaking wet with no shoes on
Standing at almost 5 foot 1
The doctor says I’m done
Growing apart, I grabbed your arm
I didn’t mean you any harm
I held on way too long, I’ll hold on I’ll hold on
Digging in your thumbs into my shoulders
Not enough, just run me over
I’ll stand still if you will
I’ll stand still, I’ll stand still
I love you, but it’s no use
It’s no good
I don’t love you how I should, no…
– “Hybrid,” Annie DiRusso
Like any good pop-punk artist, Annie DiRusso manages to balance an infectious guitar-driven rock sound with personal and at times heartbreaking lyrics.
DiRusso wavers from lightly poking fun at herself to earnestly expressing her self-hatred, and through it all, she remains relatable. Each song is an exploration in the grey areas of life. The subject matter remains bleak and confessional, but the lyrics, instrumentation, and general ambiance that make up the songs are playful and upbeat.
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© Neil Shukla
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