There’s a kind of necessary bloodletting that comes at the end of college—a moment of reckoning with the past before you decide to get on with the rest of your life. Maybe you move back home, stew it over while the big questions start to tug at you. Who am I, for now? And when will my life begin?
That peculiar vertigo—the pleasant confusion that comes with being young and unsure—is what colors Brooklyn, NY singer-songwriter Annie Blackman’s debut album, All of It. Born and raised in Montclair, New Jersey, Blackman spent her college years in the flatlands of central Ohio, at Kenyon College. The music takes cues from each of these psychic zones. She wrote “Power” on a twin XL in her freshman dorm, and “Glitch” less than two weeks after unpacking her first apartment in New York, five years later; “Pickets” and “Glass House” were the result of an isolated pandemic summer at her parents’ place in New Jersey. In these songs, characters stumble through panic attacks and casual hook-ups, suburban train rides and virtual doctor’s appointments. The drama unfolds in miniature, but Blackman raises the emotional stakes with sunset chord progressions and a tender sound.
Blackman’s lyrics are frank, diaristic, and often funny. The substance of “Glitch” came to her after watching a B-grade documentary about simulation theory, and the spontaneity of it shines through in Blackman’s conversational delivery. On “Glass House,” she muses about the inherent awkwardness of the creative process—the way a songwriter can end up mining relationships for inspiration. “Oh Annie and the narrative they warned him I would write,” she sighs. “How’d I do?”
She’s not entirely in her own head, either. Sharing drafted lyrics with friends is a crucial step in her writing process. “I mostly want to know when a lyric is corny,” she says. “Corniness is the greatest casualty of too much time spent inside a feeling.” That tendency toward self-criticism is all over the album, in knowing jokes and moments of real turmoil; at one point, she sings about wanting her therapist to think she’s cool.
A lesser writer might smudge the contours of these memories. But even when Blackman is teetering on the precipice of something vast and unknowable, grappling with the future and an evolving sense of self, she never lets the details fall out of focus. On “Pickets,” she lingers in the specifics of a vivid daydream romance (the exact course of the NJ Transit train ride with a crush, the position of her hand on his shoulder) before returning to a reality where things haven’t worked out quite so neatly.
You know these feelings, even if you don’t know these stories. As she works through her own struggles, Blackman speaks to universal commitments. Her wholehearted approach is the source of the music’s power—an expression of empathy and gratitude for the journey, but also a raw look at frustration: the kinds of inevitable sadnesses that accompany change.
Annie Blackman’s debut album, All of It, will be released April 8, 2022, via Father/Daughter Records.