Deau Eyes Paints an Unflinching Self-Portrait on Let It Leave
On her debut record, Ali Thibodeau thrives when showcasing her impressive guitar skillsMusic Reviews Deau Eyes
Let’s pour one out for the emerging artists releasing their debut albums in the midst of a global pandemic. On the one hand, they have a captive audience sitting at home, hungry for any new media to distract them from the state of the world or provide much-needed catharsis. However, these performers are also missing out on touring opportunities that support them financially and expose them to potential new fans. With that in mind, it’s time to turn our attention to a musician doing just that.
Let It Leave introduces us to Richmond, Va., native Ali Thibodeau, known behind the microphone as Deau Eyes. She left high school before graduating and has since held an impressively varied array of jobs, some of the most colorful including a Harry Potter World witch and a twinkle-toed elf. Thibodeau may count indie rock darling Lucy Dacus among her friends, but this moment is one all her own. Hers has been a life of music and relative transience, brimming with fodder for songs.
The album, which was actually recorded at Trace Horse Studios in Nashville, Tenn., back in January 2018, lyrically serves as a fitting glimpse into Thibodeau’s life. On the opening track “Some Do,” she asserts that the typical nine-to-five life is not for her, singing, “And I don’t belong in an hourglass room / with timers and deadlines and shrinking balloons.” We get a sense of her empathy for the underdog on “Paper Stickers,” a raucous, previously released single from the perspective of her eight-year-old niece. Her resilience is showcased on “Autonomy,” in which she extricates herself from a relationship in order to find renewed power within. Thibodeau’s words are poetic and evocative—the mention of “Fresh mister coffee and sweet pea perfume” on “Some Do” is transportative yet simple—clearly showcasing who she is not just as an artist, but a person.
As for her musical choices, Thibodeau successfully tries her hand at several related sounds, but hits her stride in the moodier guitar-heavy moments. “Some Do” and “Paper Stickers” are Americana-tinged arena rock, the perfect songs to blast through your headphones as you lay in the grass and throw your head back in mirth. Along with the guitar-shredding “Full Proof,” they’re arguably two of the funnest songs on the record, but they’re a little lighter and fluffier. There’s no doubt that these tracks are sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs material, but compared to others on the album, “Some Do” and “Paper Stickers” are aural popcorn.
Thibodeau detours into quiet, gentler material as well, highlighting her delicate voice. “Parallel Time” is the sole track on the record to feature only acoustic guitar, a ballad you can imagine her singing pensively on a barstool. At times it feels a bit pedestrian, but Thibodeau’s crystal-clear vocals are enough to pull you back in. On “Dear Young Love” she delves into alt-country à la First Aid Kit, and the song’s expansive sound is punctuated by her own vulnerability.
Let It Leave truly shines, though, when Thibodeau leans into her fantastic guitar skills and darker ideas. On “Miner and Raven,” she weaves a tale about a lovesick raven who asks a miner to meet her at the moon, but is left all alone. A winding guitar hook pulls you in, unhinged and menacing, before crescendoing at the bridge and crashing against distorted vocals. “Full Proof” provides enough shredded guitar to spread over your cereal and still have some to spare. She plays between the notion of being foolproof and “full proof,” aka completely intoxicating. Between the crazed guitar and a constantly ringing alarm, the song keeps your nerves twitching the whole time. But Thibodeau saves the best for last: “The Bow” begins intimate and downtrodden, unfurling into wide open space, strengthened by strings and fuzzed-out guitar. The maelstrom of distortion on the bridge is far more rewarding than any pop-inspired moments earlier in the album.
Let It Leave feels like the recorded version of sharing a deep conversation with Thibodeau, as we bask in her skilled storytelling and the emotional release of her songs. While she has yet to fully tap into her most enriching musical veins, we’re content to be along for the ride.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast, hibernophile and contributing writer for Paste’s music and comedy sections. She also exercises her love for reality TV at HelloGiggles every now and then. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.