Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Orla Gartland’s debut album maps out the confusion and messiness of life as a ‘Woman on the Internet’

Dublin-born and London-based singer-songwriter Orla Gartland has always been known for her sharp lyricism, featuring searing, self-aware honesty. Especially after the past year, music that thrives on its authenticity of feeling is what we all need. The best parts of her debut album ‘Woman on the Internet’ hit this nail right on the head.

In fitting with the album’s title and theme, it is less of a cohesive journey through the track list, and more of a patchwork, a mismatch of feelings, thoughts, and self-consciousness. Album-opener, ‘Things That I’ve Learned’ sets the stage for this, with its contemplation of what it means to be a woman on the internet. It also espouses those often vague and generalised mantra-commands, to “Say what’s on your mind” and “Take up all the space” in a way that doubly infuses them with hopefulness and satirizes them. 


‘You’re Not Special, Babe’ takes a similar approach, encouraging a look beyond the internet culture that sees us all as curators of our own life and image. Its layered vocals emphasise this exteriorisation and confusion of perspective.


‘More Like You’ was an early single release and is an album standout. It captures that feeling of wanting to be like someone else and takes it to the extreme, with a longing to “copy every word you say.” The tongue-in-cheek chorus’ cry of “Oh, I heard it from a woman on the internet / She told me to eat well and try to love myself” once again references the one-size-fits-all notion of typical lifestyle tips. Additionally, the desperation in “But please don’t be so perfect right in front of me” speaks to a deep-set vulnerability.


A series of later tracks in the album address relationships in the wake of womanhood in the internet age. ‘Over Your Head’‘Zombie!’ and ‘Do You Mind?’ all reference a “you” who is “jacked up on [...] testosterone” and who “told me I should be assertive.” The beats are punky and hard-hitting, but the lyrics feel less specific and blend more into the background than in other songs.


‘Madison’ is another standout, with guitar strumming accompanying the expression of authentic introspection. The track evokes the feeling of its singer lying on a bed, going over and over her thoughts: “I guess I could be happier / I suppose I could be less of a dick.”


‘Codependency’ and ‘Bloodline / Difficult Things’ continue this espousal of confusion around identity. “I’m not happy if you’re not happy,” she sings in the former, in a way that is antithetical to the song’s upbeat instrumentals and feels like the musical equivalent to plastering on a fake smile for an Instagram photo after you’ve just been crying.


The latter – the album closer – verges midway into a compilation of distant, chattering voices. Then the singing resumes with a frustrated expression of, “I keep it all in / ’Cause we never talk about difficult things.” Ending on this note makes for a powerful summation of this collection of tracks. It skilfully expresses that lack of ability to entirely understand and express yourself; that feeling of coming up against a block and continually falling back again.


As a body of music, ‘Woman on the Internet’ is no small feat, especially for a debut album. Orla Gartland is the kind of artist we need right now, and her future is sure to be bright.



Eleanor Burleigh


Image: Woman on the Internet Official Album Cover Art

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