Album Review: ‘Bewitched’ by Laufey
Written by Sophie Nimberger on October 9, 2023
On September 8, 2023, Icelandic singer-songwriter Laufey released her second studio album, Bewitched. After listening to the album in its entirety, I’d describe it as a neo-traditional jazz tribute to love in all its forms. The themes of the album include self-love, appreciation for the mundane aspects of life, and the trials and tribulations of love.
Bewitched is successful in merging contemporary themes with classical jazz instrumentals, a combination that defines Laufey’s “sound.” The album is reminiscent of Laufey’s first album, Everything I Know About Love, yet comes off as more mature both in lyrical themes and studio production.
Instead of heavily relying on the influence of jazz musicians of the past, Laufey is defining her own unique identity as an artist on this album. Bewitched opens with the soft harmonies of “Dreamer,” a jovial song that presents a playful outlook on dating and puts emphasis on preserving one’s own fantasies over conforming to the wants of another. This can be seen in the lyrics, “No boy’s gonna be so smart as to / Try and pierce my porcelain heart.”
Following “Dreamer,” the album launches into the melancholy track titled “Second Best.” This song is Laufey’s reflection of a past relationship in which she “settled for less.” The lyrics are vulnerable, as she admits to still wondering if her past love would ever have her back despite giving her “nothing to miss.” The sensitivity of Laufey’s lyricism is further emphasized by her soft voice, making the song feel even more like a confession of her inner yearnings.
“Haunted” was a personal favorite off the album. The melodic acoustic strumming and descriptions of “pale moonlight” and “rose perfume” set the scene of an intimate night shared between lovers. Despite the beauty of the imagery, the lyrics of the song are drenched in self-judgment and guilt as Laufey promises to stop resigning herself to love someone who does not truly love her back. The theme of the song is poignant, even to listeners who have not been in the same position as Laufey, because of the heavy theme of self-judgment, a feeling everyone has felt at some point. In the end, the track trails off into instrumentals as she admits that he will “haunt” her again, symbolizing the continuation of the destructive yet cyclical nature of the relationship with her lover.
The album takes an optimistic turn with the tracks “Must be Love,” “While You Were Sleeping,” and “Love Sick,” detailing the butterflies and exhilaration that comes with a new relationship. The three songs also share an overarching theme of how being in love changes every aspect of one’s life, as Laufey describes becoming completely preoccupied with the thoughts of her lover. Given that break-up anthems are currently ruling the music charts, this section of the record is especially refreshing, because it is so distinct in terms of genre and content.
The album slows down with the instrumentals of “California and Me” and “Nocturne (interlude)” before launching into “Promise” and “From The Start.” “Promise” highlights the sensitivity of Laufey’s voice the most as the orchestra only works to gently amplify the emotional impact of her lyrics. “From The Start” is the most successful song off the album, for good reason. The lyrics are playful yet resentful as Laufey laments over her feelings of rejection over a soft bossa nova melody.
Another standout on the album is “Letter To My 13 Year Old Self.” This track steps out of the familiar topic of romance to instead bring focus to Laufey’s childhood. In a way, the song is a love letter from Laufey to herself as she comforts her childhood self by reassuring her that one day she will grow out of her anxieties and find happiness, a message that some girls wish they can convey to their past selves.
Finally, the album closes with the title track “Bewitched.” The song describes a movie-like romance and Laufey’s own disbelief at how much her feelings for the song’s subject have affected her, in a way summarizing the overarching theme of the album. Even though I could not relate to the subject of every song, the album has made a very large emotional impact on me. This is a testament to how well Laufey is able to put listeners in her shoes through her vibrant descriptions and soul-stirring lyrics. I’d especially recommend this album to anyone who is interested in contemporary jazz.