Roundtable Discussion: A Review of Lizzy McAlpine’s ‘Older’

Older - Lizzy McAlpine
Older - Lizzy McAlpine
Atwood Magazine’s writers discuss Lizzy McAlpine’s third album, ‘Older’, a tour de force that showcases the artist’s growth and storytelling prowess through raw, stripped-down tracks and intimate, deeply reflective lyrics.
Featured here are Atwood writers Emma Rayder, Lauren Turner, and Kelly McCafferty Dorogy!

Lizzy McAlpine's third album 'Older' is out April 5, 2024 via RCA Records. “To me, this album represents who I’ve become over the past three years,” she says.

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To start, what is your relationship with Lizzy McAlpine’s music?

Kelly McCafferty: I stumbled across “all my ghosts” on a New Music Friday in 2021. I loved it and immediately went to listen to the album. Usually when I do this I find that the song on NMF was the standout and then move on. With Lizzy, every song I listened to was better and better. It was one of those rare moments where I discovered a new artist and couldn’t believe I didn’t know her songs before. From that point, I was hooked. Her artistry and ability to stay steadfast in what feels true to her is admirable.

Emma Rayder: I will shamelessly admit that I discovered Lizzy McAlpine through the viral success of “ceilings.” I, like Kelly, was pleasantly surprised to find that the rest of the songs on five seconds flat were just as heartfelt and catchy as McAlpine’s TikTok hit. The album’s leading track, “doomsday,” was one of my top five most played songs on Spotify last year.

Lauren Turner: I found and became a fan of Lizzy McAlpine through her song “Means Something.” Truthfully, at the time, I related a lot to the lyrics of that song. What Lizzy was singing about was something similar I was going through at the time. I immediately loved how detailed the storytelling was, and how much emotion I felt toward it. Her very calming and angelic voice drew me in and next thing I knew, like Kelly, I was getting lost down the rabbit hole of her discography.



What are your first impressions of Older?

Lizzy McAlpine's third album 'Older' is out April 5, 2024 via RCA Records. “To me, this album represents who I’ve become over the past three years,” she says.

Kelly: I thought that it highlighted Lizzy’s strengths; her vocals and her songwriting. It’s not just that she has an amazing voice, it’s that she’s able to emote so specifically with it. She has immense range and control, but it’s the emotion and passion that she’s able to express through her singing that is unmatched. Older blew me away after the first listen. It exceeded any expectations I had.

Emma: Older is easy listening. The album flows seamlessly from track to track, with each song sitting in exactly the right place. It showcases Lizzy McAlpine’s strengths as a storyteller, not just in each individual song, but throughout the album as a whole. I felt like I was watching the girl who released “ceilings” grow into a woman who knows her worth.

Lauren: Older felt like Lizzy’s reflection album. Specifically, in relation to time. Lizzy and I are about the same age and I feel like the idea of time is so vital at this point in our lives. Society makes it feel like you got to have it all figured out or at least where you are going by your mid-twenties. To add to it, while growing up, you look forward to being this age for such clarity. But in reality, it could not be further from the truth. Almost everyone I know who is in their mid-twenties almost feels the complete opposite. None of us have it figured out. It gets you reflecting on life and how far you have come and grown. But it also makes you wonder where you want to be and who you will become. Because although timing is not making sense, if you have learned one thing at all about it, it is that it is rarely on your side and it will keep ticking away. It is what you do within that time that truly matters. With this ideality in mind, Older definitely struck home for me. At times it was hard to listen to because it is very similar to what I have gone through and am currently going through in some ways. Lizzy’s storytelling leads this album above anything else and her more acoustic and slower take to it not only emphasizes that but is what makes it so captivating to me.

Lizzy McAlpine Ushers in a New Era with Achingly Beautiful "Older" © baeth
Lizzy McAlpine © baeth

Which songs stand out for you on the album, and why?

Lizzy McAlpine's third album 'Older' is out April 5, 2024 via RCA Records. “To me, this album represents who I’ve become over the past three years,” she says.

Kelly: It really is a top to bottom album. The whole thing tells a story and each song is an integral piece of that story. That said, “Like It Tends To Do,” “Staying,” “March,” and “Vortex” are insanely beautiful. “All Falls Down” does something some of my favorite songs do – puts sad words to happy sounds. I remember hearing “Broken Glass” and “I Guess” at a live show in 2023. I loved them so much then, and I do now too!

Emma: The crescendo toward the end of “I Guess” is not only satisfying, but also conveys a sense of hope after a set of especially hopeless lyrics, “Wish it was easy / I wish I knew / What I was doing, but I never do.” The album follows the light at the end of a particularly dark tunnel, with Lizzy promising herself on its last track, “Vortex,” that “Someday you’ll come back, and I’ll say no.” Despite Older being the product of a breakup, the album’s best tracks convey a sense of optimism through delicate vocals and upbeat melodies.

Lauren: I really enjoyed how Lizzy opened with “The Elevator.” It was a great introduction into the rest of the album. I’m not sure if she meant it to have this type of metaphor, but for me, it actually felt like we were riding up on an elevator and we got off on a floor that was designated to this aspect of her life, and behind each door (song) on this floor was something different pertaining to it. I also really loved “Like It Tends To Do,” “Staying” and “Better Than This.” The storytelling behind these three songs was so beautiful.

I think in “Like It Tends To Do,” specifically, she really hits that feeling she is singing about right on the head. She sings, “If we were standing in the same room, would we be in separate corners? Would I actively avoid you? If we were standing in the same room, would you find a little window and finally make your move?” For a lot of people, this is so relatable. I think a lot of us out there wonder what it would be like if we were in the same room as that specific person we are thinking about and what would happen? So, to me, it is such a cool idea for a song. More importantly though, it is such a delicate song, like the situation tends to be, and her voice really captures that heartbreakingly calm defeat of lost hope.

Lizzy McAlpine © baeth
Lizzy McAlpine © baeth

Do you have any favorite lyrics so far?

Lizzy McAlpine's third album 'Older' is out April 5, 2024 via RCA Records. “To me, this album represents who I’ve become over the past three years,” she says.

Kelly: The bridge in “Vortex” is a big standout musically, as well as lyrically.

And you’re screaming at mе and I’m watching it fall
And I’m slamming the door and you make yourself tall
But it’s always an act and it never lasts long
‘Cause I always come back when I need a new song
And I’m tired of this and the way that it feels
I’m not there anymore, this has never been real
We’re just awful together and awful apart
I don’t know what to do anymore

Emma: The final chorus and outro to “Drunk, Running” stopped me in my tracks. Clever and powerful at the same time, McAlpine perfectly captures the not-so-benign realities of being drunk and in love (not to be confused with a certain Beyoncé song).

Say, “I love you”
And then drink it backwards
Say, “I love you”
Uoy еvol I, Uoy evol I
(I love you)
Uoy evol I
Uoy evol I, Uoy evol I
(I love you)

Lauren: The lyric, “Tryna find the lesson in it all but I haven’t learned anything,” in “March” really stuck out to me when listening to Older. Then to follow it up with, “One year older but somehow I feel younger,” really alludes to that concept of time and trying to have everything figured out, like I mentioned above. It is like you are old enough to know that sometimes things happen to us to teach us a lesson and to make us grow wiser. In some situations, you know that it is exactly that, that is happening. But it is not necessarily that easy to find the lesson. Sometimes again, it takes time. But it is almost as if you want to know what that lesson is immediately so you can move on to be who you are supposed to be. However, in order to find the lesson, you have to go through the work. As you get older, you also realize, life maybe will never make sense. The more you know, the more questions you will have, which in return makes you feel so much younger because you still have so much learning to do. It is a vicious cycle in life, but also the most rewarding.

Essentially, I think these two simple lines really hit at what the whole album is about and touch upon a really hard human concept to understand that we all go through. Another lyric that sticks out to me is “Maybe I would be okay/ If I let this go forever/ Send it into space and watch the planets turn/ Maybe I will some day/ Let this go forever/ Hold me until I find the nerve,” from “Staying.” I just think this is such a real, raw and heartbreakingly beautiful couple of lines. It really highlights that end of a relationship, when you know it is written in the stars that this is never going to work. You are aware that letting go is what you have to do and what you will eventually do. But you are simply not ready yet. You just love that individual so much and you want to draw out the end for just a bit longer before you let it go into the abyss.

Where do you feel Older sits in McAlpine’s discography?

Lizzy McAlpine's third album 'Older' is out April 5, 2024 via RCA Records. “To me, this album represents who I’ve become over the past three years,” she says.

Kelly: I think it’s her best work. I’ve seen a few interviews of hers surrounding Older. After the success of five seconds flat and then the “ceilings” virality, she really took the time to step back and figure out how she wanted to continue putting out music rather than riding the wave of what other people wanted from her. I think that takes immense will power. The best artists are able to stay true to themselves rather than submitting to what other people want them to be – Lizzy has that.

Emma: Definitely her best album yet. I would go so far as to say this is the best breakup album I’ve heard since Lorde released Melodrama in 2017. Older, wiser, and adhering to the rules of capitalization in her song titles, McAlpine successfully leaps beyond the virality of five seconds flat to higher, more stable ground.

Lauren: I completely agree with Kelly and Emma that this is Lizzy’s best work. She is known for her storytelling and that immensely shows and takes on a new height in this piece of work. It is almost as if she has taken all the previous versions of herself that we have listened to in previous projects and has said that she is still that girl, just now older.

Lizzy McAlpine © baeth
Lizzy McAlpine © baeth

The album’s name, Older, speaks to McAlpine’s maturation as both an artist and an individual. Where do you see this most within the album?

Lizzy McAlpine's third album 'Older' is out April 5, 2024 via RCA Records. “To me, this album represents who I’ve become over the past three years,” she says.

Kelly: I think the production of the album speaks for itself. As I said, it highlights her vocals and lyrics. The music lifts up her strengths rather than drowning them out. Although the songs are perfect, it doesn’t feel like they’ve been fine tuned to perfect (if that makes sense). They’re raw, emotional and stripped down while still being so full.

Emma: Beginning with liminal space in “The Elevator,” and ending with hope for a stronger self in “Vortex,” Older is an intimate look into McAlpine’s personal and artistic growth since five seconds flat. The album tells a story of heartbreak and rebuilding – the kind that is only possible when you are quite sure of yourself – through candid lyrics and Lizzy’s sweet vocals.

Lauren: Again, I completely agree with Kelly and Emma. From beginning to end, the album as a whole, just altogether really shows that growth. Lizzy takes you on a journey of heartbreak, self-love, growing older and becoming her whole authentic self. You get a tiny piece of her in each song that, by the end, has revealed who she is.

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:: stream/purchase Older here ::
:: connect with Lizzy McAlpine here ::

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Lizzy McAlpine's third album 'Older' is out April 5, 2024 via RCA Records. “To me, this album represents who I’ve become over the past three years,” she says.

Connect to Lizzy McAlpine on
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📸 © baeth


an album by Lizzy McAlpine

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