Melbourne/Naarm born artist Angie McMahon released her second studio album Light, Dark, Light Again last year – to immediate success. The singer released her first album, Salt, in 2019, and now has over 718,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. She will be playing Laneway festival in February this year at all six locations. She also her song Letting Go land at #67 in Triple J’s 2023 Hottest 100.
Light, Dark, Light Again is an album that details McMahon’s journey with anxiety, healing, love, heartbreak, learning, and growing. It’s one of those rare perfect albums where every song packs a punch and has its own unique sound and message. McMahon gives the listener such a close and intimate view of her world, that we can’t help but feel like we are right there alongside her.
But above all, it’s about relinquishing the control – or lack thereof – that she has on her life. There is an earnestness with which McMahon discusses these issues, as she sings candidly about anti-depressants, making herself sick with Fireball, binge watching ‘The Walking Dead’, and being a people pleaser. Mother Nature and the universe serve as metaphors and mentors to McMahon as she discusses these relatable and mundane issues. In fact, some of the most repeated words on this album are sea, ground/dirt, grow, and body, as well as life, death, learning and dance. In this album, Angie McMahon has been able to reclaim her life by accepting that she has no control over it.
Five songs revolve around the album’s core theme of relinquishing control to the universe and learning from nature to heal from your traumas. These songs are Saturn Returning, Letting Go, Divine Fault Line, Mother Nature, and Making It Through. Saturn Returning is the first song on the album, a delicate track that encompasses the album’s goal of finding inner peace and self-acceptance. “I’m gonna dance every day ‘til I’m old/I’m gonna love every inch of this body”, McMahon sings, a promise both to the listener and to herself. Divine Fault Line and Mother Nature are about the ultimate power of the universe and nature, respectively. The universe has a plan for you, and nature will tear apart any plans you try to make. These songs are telling the listener, “You are so small in this world, let what happens happen”, but the message is reassuring rather than terrifying.
Letting Go sounds like something from a coming-of-age film. It’s for people in their 20’s and 30’s, that tumultuous time when you’re expected to be an adult but you’re just stumbling along trying to find some sense in the world. The song ends with McMahon’s repetitive but comforting mantra, “It’s okay, make mistakes.” The album’s last song, Making It Through mirrors the album’s first song, where the lessons of the album are rehashed and new promises are made, signifying growth. It’s a soothing song that brilliantly ties together the album and its message, leaving the listener with the soft sounds of Angie McMahon’s voice in their ears.
Like the album title suggests, the track list is light, dark, and then light again. Some of the ‘lightest’ songs on the album include Exploding, I Am Already Enough and Music’s Coming In. Here McMahon looks at self-love and self-exploration, and can once again find the parts of herself that she likes and is proud of. She learns to put herself first in Exploding and Music’s Coming In, songs about self-forgiveness and going easy on yourself. McMahon described I Am Already Enough as ‘primal, radical self-compassion’ and a rebellion in a world where people think they need to buy things to be better versions of themselves. ‘Imagine if we all thought we were enough’, Angie McMahon said about her song.
But we do have to face our inner darkness eventually, which McMahon does with songs Black Eye, Serotonin, and Staying Down Low. The three songs are about low points, hitting rock bottom, and being depressed. Staying Down Low details self-destruction, while Black Eye is about allowing yourself to be depressed and not beating yourself up about it. It’s a refreshing take in a world where constantly bettering yourself and self-care is the most important thing. McMahon also addresses her relationship with anti-depressants in Serotonin, and the result is a bittersweet song on how healing is about effort and dedication. It ultimately ends with the realisation that the simple act of trying, whether you succeed or fail, is the answer to healing.
Fireball Whiskey and Fish are the two main heartbreak songs on the album, the first being a slow and sad song about processing the pain after losing love. The second is still sad, still painful, but grittier and with a cathartic quality to it.
Angie McMahon takes her listeners through her depression and out the other side again. The album ends with another mantra of McMahon’s, the repetition of the album’s title. It’s a soft and comforting lullaby to remind the reader that no matter how dark things seem, lightness will come back. Eventually.
Where you should listen to this album: walking through nature (dawn or dusk preferred), with a glass of wine in the bathtub, on a long road trip with the windows down, or any place where you can laugh, cry, sing loudly and contemplate all the mistakes you’ve made and all the ones to come.