There’s nothing scarier than being honest with yourself. For singer/songwriter Al Olender, facing her fear of the truth has been a cleansing, often cathartic process that’s led to the kind of revelations she had previously thought unobtainable. On her debut full-length album Easy Crier, the Upstate New York based artist asks: what happens if we vow to never tell a lie, ever again? Charting the daunting territories of staring your demons right in the face and prodding at the ugly parts of your reflection, Olender pieces together her most vulnerable moments to produce a celebratory and beautiful rumination on grief, and reminds us of the power that comes in really getting to know yourself.
Anne had no way of knowing what lay ahead when she began writing her gorgeous and aching new album, Oh To Be That Free—sobriety, pregnancy, a global pandemic, and the hemorrhagic stroke that would nearly kill her mother were all just around the corner—but listening back in the warm glow of hindsight, it’s almost as if she was writing a survival guide for her future self. The songs are profoundly vulnerable here, hinting at everything from Brandi Carlile to Kacey Musgraves as they reckon with the flaws and faults that keep us up at night, and Michaela’s delivery is tender and empathetic, insisting that we’re worthy of love not in spite of our shortcomings, but because of them. And so the freedom Michaela sings of isn’t the wild freedom of youth or rebellion, but rather the spiritual freedom that comes from learning to accept what is rather than what ought to be, from learning to appreciate what you have rather than what you want, from learning to look in the mirror and love the person staring back.