Illustration by Ben Beechener
I first encountered Ashe last year whilst watching the Netflix original movie ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, PS: I Still Love You’. Her song ‘Moral of the Story’ takes centre stage as the protagonist, Lara Jean Covey, zones out in the setting of a stereotypical American High School corridor. With powerful lyrics such as “you can think that you’re in love when you’re really just in pain” making ‘Moral of the Story’ an unmissable feature, Ashe’s music provides an apt backdrop to a narrative arc of despair when Covey and her boyfriend Peter break up. Naturally, I added the song to all of my melancholic playlists but failed to delve deeper into her discography.
Fast-forward to a couple of months ago, amidst a typical essay crisis, the song ‘Till Forever Falls Apart (ft. FINNEAS)’ appeared on my ‘Spotify Discover Weekly’, and the name Ashe re-entered my consciousness. With this being the second song I now thoroughly enjoyed, I decided to give her a proper chance— I was far from disappointed.
Having only previously released singles, the highly anticipated 2021 debut album Ashlyn covers a variety of themes and styles, ranging from a slow ballad about loving someone through every obstacle, to a direct indie anthem about the experience of post-long-term relationship one-night stands. Moreover, she has collaborated with the likes of FINNEAS and Niall Horan— both of whom feature on the album. Overall, it feels personal, fun, and incredibly human. With this in mind, here is a breakdown of my top three must-listen tracks.
Me Without You
Emotional line: “Your hands on the wheel drove us into a wall”
The steady bass line, combined with punchy verses and contrasting choruses that change from a minor to major tonality, explore a sense of self-identity found in learning to exist with confidence, without being dependent on someone else for your happiness. However, rather than taking a sentimental tone, Ashe explores a more blunt approach, recognising that her seemingly supportive relationship actually limited her, preventing her from reaching her full potential.
Hype line: “So tell me if it’s okay now to take off your clothes but by morning I won’t try to hold you”
Having been a “serial monogamist” myself, and then recently breaking up with my partner of two years, I found this song to be incredibly comforting yet empowering. Its upbeat yet explicit approach to dissecting the one-night stand helped me gain confidence in what I wanted, newly emerging into singledom, whilst deconstructing the notion that it was a stereo-typically male domain.
Love is Not Enough
Deep line: “You said you wanted a girl with a future but everybody comes with a past”
‘Love is Not Enough’ is a touching, slightly melancholic, piano ballad about the realities of being happy with the present and committing to love whilst avoiding the rose-tinted perspective that love fixes everything. The light piano accompaniment and airy vocals provide a sense of intimacy and sensitivity, whilst maintaining a sense of nostalgia as if it were a calling card to a slow piano anthem from Elton John or John Lennon.
‘I’m Fine’ explores the idea of just saying that you’re okay when it’s too hard to admit that you’re not, yet finding comfort in surrounding yourself with people that can recognise that and support you regardless.
‘Moral of the Story’ is the first song I ever heard from Ashe and is still, without a doubt, one of my favourites. With its distinctive piano accompaniment and honest lyrics, the song feels emotional and real with every listen.
I would recommend listening to the album in chronological order to fully experience the emotional journey that Ashe facilitates throughout the course of the album. Although I’ve mentioned some of my favourites, it was a very difficult task to select the specific songs that made it to the list. Ashlyn is an album where I believe there’s something for everyone. So even if you don’t love every single song, or even the ones I’ve mentioned in the article, I hope you enjoy the opportunity to discover something new and maybe even find something you like.