Gracie Abrams, photo by Abby Waisler

Gracie Abrams has always been a confessional and open songwriter. Since emerging with the ‘Minor’ EP in 2020, the 24-year-old has dealt in candid lyricism and diaristic indie pop. Her debut full-length record, last year’s ‘Good Riddance’, crystallised this winning formula – it was a “deeply intimate portrait of growth” painted over producer Aaron Dessner’s distinct formula of folksy instrumentals and skittering electronics.

On her second album ‘The Secret of Us’, though, there’s a new intimacy. Here Abrams is crying on the dancefloor and sharing her inner thoughts with her closest pals in the smoking area. But she isn’t shrinking her sound. Supporting Taylor Swift on the Eras tour, “completely altered” Abrams’ own songwriting, she revealed recently: “At different points in the shows [she] makes it feel like an intimate venue despite the fact that there are 80,000 or 100,000 people sharing the space… That’s what I want so badly, because the joy is infectious.”

You can hear this influence in the songs with lyrics that feel designed to be screamed back in a live setting: take the breathless bridge of ‘Free Now’, where Abrams explores the relief an waning relationship can bring (“It’s a pain that I caught you at a bad time/It’s a shame that I memorised your outline”), or the bitter eyeroll of ‘Blowing Smoke’ (which has contributions from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon): “If she’s got a pulse, she meets your standards now”. And of course, Swift herself features on the song ‘Us’, which wouldn’t sound out of place on the superstar’s twin records ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ – two albums that Abrams’ regular collaborator Dessner, who co-produced ‘The Secret of Us’, also famously worked on.

Musically ‘The Secret of Us’ falls close to Swift’s folk turn, as well as the work of Phoebe Bridgers – but there are echoes of Lorde’s effervescent second album ‘Melodrama’. Abrams mimics the songs’ visceral emotions in their sonics: the fizzing feeling of endless possibility that can come with heartache (‘Free Now’, ‘Normal Thing’), the joy of female friendships (‘Tough Love’), and the all-encompassing euphoria of new crushes (‘Close To You’). Throughout, tracks circle the dancefloor. On ‘Normal Thing’, subdued synths are accompanied by the ebb and flow of percolating beats, the anticipation of a breakdown flying under the surface and never quite erupting into clubby, full-blown euphoria.

This release arrives in the album’s finale, though. Awaited by fans since Abrams shared a clip of it in 2017, the megawatt ‘Close To You’ gives the artist her ‘Green Light’ moment. It’s a breathless flourish of lush synth pulses and layered backing vocals. Lorde aside, it also evokes records like Swift’s ‘1989’ or Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Emotion’: ’80s-indebted pop through a modern lens. The vocals spill out, as if on pins and needles, with Abrams professing: “I burn for you, and you don’t even know my name/if you asked me to, I’d give up everything”.

It’s a moment of pure pop catharsis that leans into the good, bad and messy of infatuation. This is the joy of ‘The Secret of Us’: it doesn’t shy away from the complex or contradictory. Here Gracie Abrams embraces her growing pains and celebrates enduring the difficult moments. She’s never sounded better.


Gracie Abrams’ ‘The Secret of Us’ cover

  • Release date: June 21
  • Record label: Interscope Records

The post Gracie Abrams – ‘The Secret of Us’ review: a new type of intimacy appeared first on NME.


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