Review: LÉON – Apart
National Music Reviews
LÉON = Maggie Rogers x Stevie Nicks
In a year of many transformations, it’s no surprise that 2020 has changed the act of both creating and listening to music. For artists like LÉON—who released her second album, Apart, recently—the pandemic has forced her to do the same as many other artists: slow down and listen to themselves, and yes, even experiment with their sound. It’s an undeniable fact that solitude can lead anyone to more introspective thinking, and in the case of LÉON, she did so by sorting through the emotional baggage of her last relationship and laying out the lessons she’s learned, and is still learning, on this album.
Apart is best described as an 11-song break up album—one that takes the listener through every stage on the process alongside LÉON, from the ugly, hard parts to the inklings of realization that she’ll be okay. In a way, the course of the album documents LÉON dealing with the baggage, but also letting go of it through her music. The album opener, “Head and Heart on Fire,” is how most broken-hearted lovers recall a relationship: the good moments, the ones that remind you why you loved that person. It’s nostalgic and sets the scene for listeners, inviting them into her journey.
The remarkable thing about LÉON is her voice—it’s mature, raspy in a way that can’t be replicated, making listeners think that she has lots of wisdom to share. Even in her debut album, LÉON, her voice was the shining beacon. On songs like “In a Stranger,s Arms” from Apart, her knowing declaration that “heartbreak always hurts the most the first time” is crooned in such a way that listeners are inclined to believe her. LÉON’s voice is key to this album; one that explores emotional and hard topics.
Sonically, though, there are times when the album’s instrumentals diminish that raw power of LÉON’s voice. In songs like “Who You Lovin” and “Seventeen,” there’s a glimpse of the LÉON from her debut album, where her voice and the sound comes together seamlessly. The lyrics are still as strong and catchy—“I wonder if I’m better alone” (“Chasing a Feeling”) and “Star-crossed lovers / I can’t help but wonder did I ever leave your mind” (“Crazy/Stupid”)—but diversity in the album’s sound could’ve led some of the middle songs to be more impactful. While the album is categorized as pop, the sound doesn’t match—there are no bangers or key components that make a pop song. It feels more like a folk album with its gentle guitar, soft beats and fragile melodies.
But then again, maybe that’s exactly what LÉON was going for. There are break up albums that are in your face, and the ones that are softer, more nostalgic than scornful. Apart seems to be somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. And maybe it’s the effect of slowing down from her life on tour, adjusting to the pandemic. It’s bled into her music, this sense of calm and collectiveness.
“Who You Lovin” is my favorite song from the album, as it perfectly showcases all of LÉON’s abilities in a jam-packed, classic pop song. The album closer and namesake, “Apart,” leaves listeners on a somber and haunting note, signaling the beginning of a time of growth for LÉON.
This is the quarantine album that LÉON needed to make, and while it may not be her most recognizable work, it’s still strong in it’s own right. It reminds listeners that life requires a certain balance, and sometimes, downtime is all you need to sort yourself out. –Palak Jayswal