Lola Young knows that it is all too easy to get swept up by a storm that is bigger than yourself. In 2021, the 22-year-old covered Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ for the John Lewis Christmas advert, little over a year into her career – it provided Young with a significant exposure boost, but felt like more of a branding exercise than a memorable introduction to a new artist. With an expressive vocal that carries the Londoner drawl of her speaking voice, breathless comparisons to Adele and Amy Winehouse swiftly followed, alongside a nomination for the BRIT Rising Star award. Yet in the midst of a whirlwind of hype, and only a handful of moody, more subdued pop singles to her name, Young was still trying to carve out a fully-formed artistic identity of her own.
On her debut project, ‘My Mind Wanders And Sometimes Leaves Completely’, it’s gratifying to hear Young push her idea of pop beyond the spacey atmospherics of her earlier material – this is the overdue arrival of a completely credible new talent. Much of the 10-track collection was inspired by Young’s schizoaffective disorder diagnosis, a condition marked by intrusive thoughts – though it’s also about grace and the illusion of effortlessness. It can seem easier to stay guarded, she repeatedly tells us across 10 tracks, but Young commits herself to being undone, detailing the lessons she’s learned over buzzing, acid-bright electronics (‘Money’) and bleeding-heart pianos (‘Annabel’s House’).
Young’s lyrics often feel akin to oversharing on social media late at night: navigating the fine line between moving past the pain, and feeling it at full force. “This isn’t a stream of consciousness / This is more like a big fat fucking no one asked,” she exclaims with a heavy sigh on ‘Stream Of Consciousness’. This personal frustration at spilling over boundaries of acceptable displays of emotion defines much of this project; the inescapability of depression shadows ‘Pretty In Pink’, while ‘Semantic Satiation’ flowers into an arresting portrait of separation.
Having recently had surgery to remove a cyst on her vocal chords, there’s now also a deeper, gravelly tone to Young’s voice than we’ve previously heard. Recorded as a freestyle, ‘Don’t Hate Me’ articulates the self-conscious shame of youth over booming drum kicks, as Young tames her vocal into both a growl and rasping lilt, her delivery resolute. At times, the track recalls the way the spare, stuttering beats of Lorde’s ‘Pure Heroine’ cut through the noise in the early 2010s.
‘My Mind Wanders And Sometimes Leaves Completely’ is about reflection, not total reinvention – there’s still time for Young to find the confidence to push her sound even further. “Lola, you need to chill out / I’m right here baby,” she whispers to herself on closer ‘Chill Out’. You get the sense of Young guarding her own fire, while finally inviting listeners to share in its glow.
- Release date: May 26
- Record label: Island Records