Reviewed by Mae Hunt
In the wake of 2020, Lilly Hiatt shares her experience with isolation and loneliness through her latest album, Lately. Particularly in comparison to her previous album Walking Proof, Lately is soft, yet revealing. Though muted in sound, the album speaks volumes about the depths of emotion many were forced to face during the pandemic. Hiatt portrays her poetic songwriting in ballads, like Simple and Ride. On the other hand, she offers more swinging rock songs, like Face and Gem.
Let’s start from the top – the album’s first track, Simple. This quietly optimistic song reveals an appreciation for life’s simplest moments. Hiatt’s soothing voice, paired with the soft snare drums and acoustics, invoke deep feelings of nostalgia. Half way through the song, I found myself reminiscing about my own simple memories – New England autumns in my childhood home, jumping in piles of leaves as my father, rake in hand, laughed along. Hiatt sings, “I cannot remember the last time I felt so good. Just talking with my family in the neighborhood.” There is a certain ambiguity in whether she’s referring to nostalgic memories of the past or reaching for a long-awaited reunion with family. Regardless, the album begins with a sweet and simple melody.
The second track, Been, switches gears to an indie rock beat with eerie undertones. One of the darkest songs on the album, Hiatt says, “We may never get this chance again, but you don’t know where I’ve been.” Been alludes to the isolation and depression so many wrestled with in 2020, without revealing the dark underbelly of Hiatt’s pandemic wounds. You can view the music video here.
Many other songs carry a similar weight of regret, sadness, or heartbreak. Stop, for example, is about being constantly overpowered by hopeless love. Hiatt’s tinkering voice dances across the instruments and she breathes, “I can’t stop. I couldn’t even if I wanted to…..” Better, on the other hand, is about the aftermath of returning to a partner who constantly lets you down. Hiatt regretfully repeats the phrase, “I should have known better.”
The final track, The Last Tear, brings the album home with some hope. As the only multi-word title, this country rock song features Hiatt’s vocals paired with the band’s rocking instruments – from Coley Hinson’s guitar to Robert Hudson’s bass.
Ultimately, Hiatt gives listeners stories that are relatable. In the album’s synopsis, she reveals, “I have always felt lonely, but never gone through the depths of solitude that I had in 2020. The irony of that is, I was not alone at all in that space. Everyone had lost something, and we were all trying to rebuild our lives as we know them.” I think that’s what’s unique about this album – everyone can take something from it. Read more about Hiatt’s own reflections and listen to and buy the album here.