Faye Webster knows the power of an arrangement. Never one to relegate her instrumentation to mere backup, she has a knack for underscoring the emotional resonance of her words, whether through a well-placed pedal steel mewl or a nimbly unwinding bassline. Her typical compositions are lush yet economical, sitting well against lyricism that’s at once vulnerable and dry. But she tries her hand at something different with her new EP, Car Therapy Sessions, in which she and a 24-piece orchestra reimagine several songs from her last two records, 2019’s Atlanta Millionaires Club and 2021’s I Know I’m Funny haha, plus one new entry, “Car Therapy.”
Created and conducted by Trey Pollard (Foxygen, Natalie Prass), these orchestral arrangements sound like love letters to golden age Hollywood. The instrumentation is strictly classical, and Drew Vandenberg’s production is rich and glimmering. For fans, it’s an Easter egg hunt to hear how the particulars of the songs are translated. “Cheers (To You & Me)” most pointedly illustrates the value of these transformations, based as it is on Webster’s rockiest cut. Without the anchor of the original track’s robust drums, there’s an insistent lurching feel to its cellos as they mimic distorted guitar, giving the song a new, almost drunken swagger; the closing guitar solo, transposed to violin, ends the EP on a triumphant high.
Webster, who recorded live with the orchestra in view, is having a lot of fun with her vocals: controlling them tighter, flexing them a little more, and imbuing them with new drama. But it’s also apparent that she’s genuinely moved by these gorgeous interpretations of her songs. Rising to meet the occasion, she delivers some of her best vocal performances to date, like her tender, entrancing repetition of the refrain at the end of “Kind Of (Type of Way)”.
Most interesting is how the maximalism and earnest vintage homage of these interpretations strips away the defensive irony in Webster’s lyrics, exposing naked emotion in the exact same words. That’s clear even in the new track “Car Therapy,” as Webster quietly requests, “Hold my body and I’ll forget I hate me”*—*no “haha” here. Where the original “Sometimes” is a dreamy slow dance, this version—“Sometimes (Overanalyze)”—sounds like the heartbreaking final act of a musical, Webster alone and hopeless under a spotlight just before the curtain falls. And in the second half of “Suite: Jonny,” which combines a two-part song from Atlanta Millionaires Club, Webster hams up her spoken-word delivery atop an instrumental that sounds like a score, turning a voicemail into a film monologue. Like the rest of the EP, it’s audacious, but Webster knows what she’s doing. These arrangements make her a star.
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