Photo Credit: Eva Pentel
Ari Staprans Leff, 25, has already been well established in writing songs that attempt to address personal topics with a laidback approach. In his first studio album How I’m Feeling, the artist leaves no stone unturned with 21-tracks that act as a self-analysis of his various personas as the listener discovers them. Lauv, previously touring with the likes of Ed Sheeran, has developed a niche of writing that he calls, “nostalgic, heartbreak songs for the smartphone generation.” The fact that people resonate with an artist like Lauv is a feat on its own. There is artistic honesty in his message. Hoewever the album, comprising of a whopping 21-songs, falls short in presenting a sense of depth and closure due it’s worn out lyrics, and repetitive narration. It sadly lacks the catharsis a listener is expected to reach after a formative 21-song journey.
It is Lauv’s determination of standing out in his songs by reaching deeper topics with a sophomore-like quality that has proved to be a successful formula. Here, he makes us travel as he expresses angst, amusement, heartbreak, longing and success through his various personas represented by different-colored outfits – Purple (existential), Blue (hopeless romantic), Green (goofy), Yellow (positive), Orange (Casanova), and Red (spicy). He wastes no time by starting off with the playful opener “Drugs and the Internet,” where he mocks a version of himself about maintaining a certain image on the Internet. We are met with a green, borderline satirical version of Lauv who shows us a mirror image of ourselves. Us, being a guilty-as-charged generation craving recognition, gathering whatever amount of dopamine we can collect through the tiring exchange of likes, comments and views.
The following track “F*ck, I’m lonely”, sees Lauv back in his lovelorn form, collaborating with Anne Marie. This is without a doubt a standout song on How I’m Feeling. In the track, his moody but temperate rendition seemed reminiscent of Twentyone Pilots’ front man Tyler Joseph. We are then transported in the hauntingly comforting “Lonely Eyes”, where we meet a gloomier Lauv, heightened by arena-friendly music. “Sims” and “Believed” offer us with seemingly contrasting stages of him being a hopeless romantic – the former describing his undeterred longing while the latter deals with defeat. “Sims” consists of a refreshing take on a what-could-have-been situation similar to that of the ending scene of the movie La La Land (if you haven’t seen the movie, then spoiler alert!). Meanwhile, there is a sense of maturity underlined within the lyrics of “Believed”, as Lauv recalls and recounts his mistakes at the end of a relationship.
However, we are presented with a rags-to-riches story through “Billy” – a track that seems rather underwhelming due to its lack of impact. This sort of dip continues with “Feelings”, which proves to be as musically consistent as it is thematically repetitive. As his collaboration-heavy odyssey continues, we are provided with the refreshing vocals of Alessia Cara in “Canada”, even though the irrefutably recurring background music seems to be an almost exhausted theme by now.
Going back to his self-aware route, LANY front man Paul Klein joins him on the song “Mean it.” Something one would describe as a high-school senior’s attempt at describing the feelings of being the second choice. “Mean it” lacks the intensity compensated by “Who” featuring Jimin and Jungkook of BTS; a smashing follow-up that provides angst and mood complimented by the three distinct voices. It consists of the themes that have not only been a strong suit for Lauv as an artist, but also elevated by the BTS vocalists’ delightful input. “For Now” acts as a much needed, albeit subtle diversion. While the track “El Tejano” represents a quirkier, flirtatious side of Lauv reminding us of an understated version of Shawn Mendes.
“Modern Loneliness” acts as a fitting epilogue of this well intended but collectively muddled myriad of chapters. It is the most effective of the songs it shares space with after the opener “Drugs and the Internet.” It imposes and elaborates the accurate narrative that is, the correlation between the illusion of wanting a better life and the excruciatingly minimal efforts we take in order to achieve one. This is the kind of disconnect he labors upon to express and find a solution to. Being in the limelight for a while, Lauv has been a vocal advocate, encouraging people to be upfront about their feelings. Nonetheless, it is a colorful album that has the potential to resonate with fans, no matter how muddy it gets in between.