by Thomas Bedward October 01, 2020
A unique musical experience from Albuquerque, New Mexico, BYLAND is the ethereal-tinged and wonderfully cinematic folk project of Alie Renee Byland. A stunning figure in modern music, Alie has been gaining a wealth of well-deserved praise from outlets such as American Songwriter, PopMatters, KUPR, Woodinville Weekly, and Mystic Sons, and now, with the release of her debut studio album, ‘GRAY’, she’s on the verge of becoming a national name.
Departing from the reflective and sentimental nature of her earlier work, ‘GRAY’ turns the focus inward, diving into a more personal and vulnerable sound that unravels from her stark, unidealized approach. Driven by lavish cinematic soundscapes, timeless arrangements, and a natural, but distinct sense of composition, ‘GRAY’ is the sort of record that flows with an underlying sense of wonder.
Complete with masterful notes from producer and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Yaccino, along with additional mixing by Andy Park, and mastering of Ed Brooks, ‘GRAY’ announces itself with both delicacy and immediacy, shifting between sounds and styles, and constantly looking inwards. While an impressive roster of contributors, including Jessica Dobson, Meagan Grandall, and Abby Gunderson help bring ‘GRAY’ to life, it’s the lush, stirring vocals and the emotive depth of the lyrics that will have you coming back to it time and time again.
When making the album, Alie was determined to make mental health a priority, and it has become a constant focal point of ‘GRAY’, with the album touching on topics such as anxiety, co-dependency, and fear of inadequacy. It’s an album of honest, human moments and deep intimate statements, offering dark lyrical hems like, “My wall of smiling is making a hole in me” and “As long as you are okay, maybe I don’t have to be”.
Highlighting the notion that acknowledging what we feel is extremely empowering and creates in us an awareness of the space our feelings occupy, ‘GRAY’ is a rare breed of album, one that can forge an instantly and undeniable connection with its audience. You can stream it in full below.
Throughout the album, there is a definitive tend of a central songwriter recounting that she often avoids things that aren’t black or white, because it’s easier to compartmentalize experiences than feel two things at once. While writing this record, Alie sat with her feelings and tried to write songs that were raw, often about what she was going through right then and there. Alie has said that by being honest with her feelings and giving a voice to her often unquestioned thoughts, she hopes others might be inspired to do the same, and with ‘GRAY’ she’s managed to do just that.
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