By Gabe Sherman
Couldn’t Wait to Tell You … is experimental, ambitious, and heartfelt. The album’s 20 tracks fit together like comfortably interlocked puzzle pieces.
In a recent interview, Liv.e was asked about whether she is out to challenge listeners with her music. “Really I just have to surprise myself,” she responded, “it’s not necessarily for the listener. It’s easy to catch people off guard with music because everything right now is so A-B-C-D, so formulated.” In an age in which streams and singles have become depressingly omnipresent, Liv.e (pronounced Liv) chooses to splendidly zig while everyone else zags. Her latest project Couldn’t Wait to Tell You… is experimental, ambitious, and heartfelt. The album’s 20 tracks fit together like comfortably interlocked puzzle pieces, flowing seamlessly to create a mood — a sustained meditative headspace.
Liv.e isn’t a complete newcomer to the music industry. She has released multiple EPs and garnered attention and support from the likes of Erykah Badu and Earl Sweatshirt, the latter of whom she toured with. But Couldn’t Wait to Tell You… is her debut LP, and it is obviously significant to her. The album marks a new phase in Liv.e’s life. In her own words, “I was transitioning into a space of complete independence. This is the album that I can look at and say, This is when I began transitioning into who I am today. I knew it was a good time to bookmark that moment.”
The production on this record is primarily handled by mejiwahn, whose most recent solo project came with the following directions: “Best enjoyed with a cool beverage in a comfortable seated and/or moving position. Intended to be heard in sequence.” Couldn’t Wait is constructed to be sipped in the same way. The opener, “What’s the Real,” features Liv.e, in character, considering the formative power of love — of another and oneself — over a dancing synth and lo-fi static background whistles. She teases the listener, ending the track with an all-too-short 15 seconds of complex, delightful harmony.
The second track, “How it Made Me Feel,” cuts in with assertive electric keys and a dirty bass riff. Her voice returns, with a sweet but powerful quality, repeating the phrase “quiero amor, cariño, cielo.” Liv.e describes Couldn’t Wait to Tell You… as a “completion of a web.” By the second or third track, you understand what she means each song is distinct, a single strand of silk, yet they are all interconnected, sometimes bleeding into one another.
The mania of the off-kilter “These Pipedreams” is perfectly juxtaposed against the contemplative coming-of-age “Stories with Aunt Liv.” Next up is the standout “Lessons From My Mistakes…But I Lost Your Number,” which finds Liv.e moving with seamless confidence between laid back rapping and gorgeous vocals. Just when you think the song is over, she surprises you with a nimble beat switch, admitting “I know, I know, you thought the song was over, but that’s incorrect, because life keeps going on and energy never dies, does it?” Liv.e is versatile and spontaneous throughout, but never at the expense of the album’s ultimate unity.
What mejiwahn contributes to this album should not be understated. Juggling soulful loops, jazzy cuts, and funky grooves with finesse, the production is a smoothly satisfying collective: vibrant yet lo-fi, eclectic, and distinctly neo-soul.
Some songs here pay direct homage to turn-of-the-century neo-soul, like “You the One Fish in the Sea,” a track that could have fit comfortably on Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun. Others push the boundaries of R&B in new directions. Much like KeiyaA’s March release, Forever, Ya Girl, Couldn’t Wait to Tell You… leans into an improvisational, jazzy spirit. Liv.e and mejiwahn reject traditional song structures; instead, they serve up brusque melodies layered with explosive bursts of harmony and fleeting riffs. The fragmentation demands your full attention, inviting you to fit the pieces of this musical portrait together. The album rewards close, intentional, and careful listening, but can also be enjoyed more casually— the individual grooves are pleasurable enough to stand on their own.
Last week, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said that artists who release an album every few years can’t expect to make a living. For some, this may not be a problem. Many artists have come to live off of singles, rejecting the concept of albums entirely, while others have stuffed albums with filler in the name of streaming revenue (Drake’s Scorpion is a recent high-profile example). But, while some musicians have done away with or lampoon the idea of an album, artists like Liv.e have quietly mounted a counter-attack. They are reinforcing what has already been proved many times over: the disc is a powerful storytelling tool. Aptly titled, Couldn’t Wait to Tell You… delivers exciting news: it draws on bold experimentalism to create a coherent narrative, a captivating exploration of the struggle for adulthood and independence told by someone who, at 22, is just coming into her own as an artist.
Gabriel Sherman is a student and writer from Brookline, MA, currently studying history at Pitzer College.