Premiere: Kelsey Magnuson Shares “Anna’s Song”

Kelsey Magnuson

Today, Olympia, WA-based indie rock singer-songwriter Kelsey Magnuson shares “Anna’s Song,” the newest single off her forthcoming debut LP, Don’t Budge (set for release on November 2 via Earth Libraries).

“Anna’s Song” highlights that taut interplay, waves of Magnuson’s bronzy guitar brushing up against shimmering cymbals and limber bass. “And when it clears/I know that she’ll be there/When it clears/I hope she knows I’ll be there,” Magnuson sings, before adding a caveat: “And even if I’m not/We’ll still be laughing at the things we should not.” That playful bounce between open-hearted and self-sacrificing detail recalls one of the biggest touchstones for Don’t Budge, Julie Doiron.

“I was so drawn to her range of sound, from plucky guitar songs to heavier riffs, and how it flowed so well through one album,” Magnuson explains, again needing to share another heartfelt detail. “But I’d also be a phony if I didn’t mention my real life inspo from idea man-confidant-and total lyrical genius Anna McClellan.”

With her band, Kelsey Magnuson creates lyric-heavy songs with catchy licks that convey her feelings on making out, growing out of your twenties, and sports as a metaphor for polyamory. Throughout her debut LP, Magnuson draws inspiration from other femme rock musicians such as Julie Doiron, Haley Heynderickx, and Hannah Mohan (And the Kids).

“The best songs are the ones that generate nostalgia for a place you’ve never been, a person you’ve never met, a memory that isn’t yours,” Kelsey Magnuson says, the soft grin evident in her words. Fueled by that ethos, the Olympia, Washington-based singer-songwriter writes the type of lyrics that burrow so deeply into your heart that they feel like your own, inseparable and unbreakable. On her debut full-length album, Don’t Budge (due November 2nd via Earth Libraries), Magnuson parses those lines through radiant bedroom pop equally matched in that witty, crackling intimacy.

Across its nine tracks, Don’t Budge carries the warmth that comes with having recorded largely in bassist Robin Caromosino’s analog home studio—though it finds heaps of grand emotional resonance in even seemingly small moments. “I just want a day off/ And I just want a clear sky,” Magnuson calls out on single “Faking It”, her theoretically simple request taking on so much weight when leaping off of drummer Ian Francis’ rolling waltz rhythm.

Francis and Magnuson each separately moved to Olympia from Nebraska in 2021, and were then connected by a mutual friend. After attempting to record “Faking It” before her move, the fluid chemistry Magnuson found with Francis and Caromosino unlocked a new depth. “That song lyrically encapsulates a lot of the vibe for the whole album,” Magnuson explains. “I’m so happy to have landed on this fuller, more orchestrated feel that only came after moving to the Pacific Northwest. I feel more a sense of connection and pride in the music I’m making and the community around me is making than anywhere else I’ve lived.”

Though they’ve only worked together for a little over a year, the three musicians have honed their connection via relentless live performances once venues began opening up. Single “Anna’s Song” highlights that taut interplay, waves of Magnuson’s bronzy guitar brushing up against shimmering cymbals and limber bass. “And when it clears/ I know that she’ll be there/ When it clears/ I hope she knows I’ll be there,” Magnuson sings, before adding a caveat: “And even if I’m not/ We’ll still be laughing at the things we should not.” That playful bounce between open-hearted and self-sacrificing detail recalls one of the biggest touchstones for Don’t BudgeJulie Doiron“I was so drawn to her range of sound, from plucky guitar songs to heavier riffs, and how it flowed so well through one album,” Magnuson explains, again needing to share another heartfelt detail. “But I’d also be a phony if I didn’t mention my real life inspo from idea man-confidant-and total lyrical genius Anna McClellan.”

Elsewhere, the chugging energy and blithe delivery of opener “Beep Beep” recalls Courtney Barnett, another singer-songwriter known for the careful balance of droll humor and heartbreak. Paired with the stop-on-a-dime shifts in guitar riffs, Magnuson’s multi-tracked vocals perfectly add to the sense of overthinking. “I can get yeah so distracted/ But my life is just made up of fractions on fractions of fractions on fractions,” she sings, a recursive mental gymnastics that will surely be familiar to many listeners. Later, “Coulda Made Out” similarly plays on the conversations that stay up in your head, tumbling nimbly back and forth between two chords as Caromosino’s bass ties everything together. “Coulda made out with you all night/ But I guess I could settle for a high five/ Get a grip girl you’re not that cool/ Come on Kels obsess about something else,” she sings, a tight self-harmony chasing every word. And when she insists she should just laugh all this self-doubt away, the forced melodic laughter sinks in like an all-too familiar knife.

By continuing to tease out her feelings in self-conversation, Don’t Budge feels like a chat with a best friend, inside jokes you didn’t even know you had and knowing asides fitting together like perfect puzzle pieces. “The songs span over a handful of years, so they come together like a map of transitions and growing pains through my twenties,” Magnuson says. “There’s so much about living in small towns, un-returned adoration, and the urgent need to spend my time ‘right’ and hold everything together.”

On “Never Been Hurt”, Magnuson lists all the maladies she’s suffered that can’t compare to a broken heart: “a spider bite, a bee sting, dog teeth in my lower lip, an ER trip on Christmas Eve.” And as the album closes one song later on “Faking It”, that pain lingers, Magnuson desperate for some time off. But as she looks back at the end of her quest, Don’t Budge offers some solace, an answer to the bumps and bruises and heartbreak. “Growing up up feels like were faking it, so why don’t we fake it together,” she sighs, that waltz riding off into the hopeful sunset.

– Written by Lior Phillips

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