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Girl In The Half Pearl Arusa Qureshi , February 8th, 2023 08:52

With newfound confidence, Liv.e leans in to even harsher sonics and more personal forms of expression, finds Arusa Qureshi

“Thematically, it’s about the rebirth of myself and allowing myself to be who I am,” Liv.e has said of her second album. For the Los-Angeles-based artist, Girl in the Half Pearl represents a new era of musical expression, one that is about far more than just a progression in sound or the finessing of one’s craft. Across seventeen songs which track the complexities of love, heartbreak and womanhood, Liv.e paints a picture of liberation, depicting the maturity needed to piece together fragments that have been previously broken down by emotions like anguish and hurt. In its emphasis on reclamation and growth, Girl in the Half Pearl portrays Liv.e at her most authentic and honest, which in turn allows her the space to continue her avant-garde explorations of genre and form.

Since her 2017 EP FRANK, Liv.e has been effortlessly blending neo-soul with experimental production, eclectic R&B and chopped up jazz, thriving on the unpredictable and unexpected with each release. Girl in the Half Pearl is no different in this regard but with her newfound freedom also comes an extra measure of confidence, heard in the forthright dissonance and cacophony of the album’s backdrop which stands its ground against Liv.e’s equally fiery bellowing and gentle crooning. Opener ‘Gardetto’, for example, is brash with heavy breakbeats and samples under Liv.e’s delicate, lo-fi vocals. But the dissimilarity creates the kind of messy soundscape that centres her vocal performance, so you’re saturated in the turmoil of her words and experience: “When I look inside my brain / there were all these webs of pain”.

In its diary-like collection of stories and characters, Liv.e’s debut album Couldn’t Wait To Tell You introduced her singular internal monologue and her technique of informal storytelling, the carefree tenderness of her lyrics oozing personality. In Girl in the Half Pearl, this is amplified by those added feelings of grief and hints of darkness, which manifests itself in more intense moments, such as ‘Ghost’ where the hyper drum breaks and Liv.e’s raging vocals become powerfully entangled.

The album isn’t a total departure from the dreamy sounds of previous releases though, with tracks like ‘Lake Psilocybin’ made up of swelling synths and celestial harmonies and ‘Heart Break Escape’ emitting Thundercat vibes in its psychedelic soulfulness. But there is an edge overall, as in the suave and shimmering ‘Wild Animals’, where Liv.e’s impassioned delivery feels ready to soar at any moment, or in ‘Snowing!’, with its contrast between the echoey murmurs and videogame-like melody. ‘Find Out’, meanwhile, is self-love epitomised; the song’s bright and airy accompaniment floating calmly alongside Liv.e’s emotive reflections on heartbreak and the trials of moving forward.

Girl in the Half Pearl is a metamorphosis in many ways, encapsulating the stress, deep introspection and eventual acceptance that goes hand in hand with the desire to access a complete sense of freedom. It’s an album that is hard to categorise but its methodical beats, otherworldly production, intriguingly chaotic clashes of melody and hazy vocals all inexplicably mesh together, with Liv.e leaning further and further towards that vital point of breakthrough.