“Underdressed at the Symphony” Is Faye Webster’s Love Letter to Existence


Ishita Jayadev ’26
Staff Writer

I listened to Faye Webster’s new album Underdressed at the Symphony over spring break, at home, where it was raining for the most part. I would wake up every day, take a shower, take out the dishes, feed my dog, and take her out on a walk. The rest of the day always passed by quickly, even though I could never quite pinpoint what exactly I was doing. The week passed in a haze of monotony until I realized it was already Friday, that there were only two days left of break, and that I had successfully existed through almost ten entire days at home. Although in some ways disappointing, the observation mostly formed the shape of an achievement. 

Faye Webster provided the perfect soundtrack to my monotony, although calling Underdressed at the Symphony background music would be a disservice. The vocoder-laden “Feeling Good Today” encapsulated the triumphs of mundanity I lived through every morning as I fed and walked my dog. “Tttttime” enveloped the weird taffy-stretch of time as well as the short staccato moments that seemed to pepper it as I passed through each day. I’ve never played Animal Crossing, but it felt like I was a little video game character bobbing around the house doing tasks timed to the wooden frog noises that play out on “eBay Purchase History.” 

Webster repeats the same phrases over and over again on a lot of these songs until they often lose meaning completely, becoming an accessory to the beautiful instrumentals her band creates beside her. This deceptive calmness lulled me more often than not. I had to go back and seek “Wanna Quit All the Time” because I somehow zoned out through it on almost all of my preliminary listens of the album. This was a mistake on my part. “Wanna Quit All the Time” is now one of my favorite songs on the album as the chorus repeats, “I think I’ll figure it out,” in response to Webster languidly singing about overthinking her tendencies in the verses. 

That isn’t to say there aren’t more upbeat moments on the album. “Lego Ring” is a fun, autotuned romp that perfectly encapsulates Webster’s childhood friendship with Lil Yachty, who is featured on the track. His last verse is one of my favorites as he sings, “Me and you the dream team / Always together like string beans / Your left hand up in every pic / Cause your Lego ring is sick.” It never fails to make me smile. “He Loves Me Yeah!” is another track I gravitated more to at the beginning, a discordant song in more ways than one. Webster outlines an uneven relationship where her partner does everything for her, “We take a walk and then he brush my hair” with a chorus of “I think we’re perfect” and “He loves me yeah,” blanketing the observations until the instrumentals seem to throw a fit, not allowing the song to proceed in its comforting percussive normalcy to the end. 

This use of sparse lyricism combined with instrumentals to tell a full story is used frequently on the album. The first time I heard the orchestral break in the title song right after Webster sings, “I’m underdressed at the symphony,” it gave me shivers, the rest of the track feeling as underdressed as Webster herself paired next to the few seconds long grand musical cacophony. And of course, the first single that Webster released of the album, “But Not Kiss,” relies heavily on its discordant instrumentals to convey its message of being, as Webster herself calls it, an “anti-romantic love song.” She sings in between a long pause, “I wanna sleep in your arms / But not kiss,” restructuring what many would think of a traditional romantic relationship. 

While I feel that the album in its entirety won’t appeal to casual listeners or even all of Webster’s fans, Underdressed at the Symphony has grown an inexplicable fondness in me over the last ten days. At the very least, I want to thank it for keeping me company all of spring break.

Image Courtesy of Pitchfork

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