‘Women’s hearts are lethal weapons,’ Maisie sings on the last song of the album, ‘History of Man’; ‘did you hold mine and feel threatened?’ These lyrics accurately encapsulate the essence of this album, which – while muddled in parts – holds an overwhelming amount of incisively written vocal commentary about self-expression away from a partner, complex relationships and asserting oneself.
This album is Maisie’s sophomore effort, following her debut album ‘You Signed Up For This’. I almost subconsciously compared the two while listening to ‘The Good Witch’ for the first time, noting both a vocal and sonic evolution from the prior. This is “pop-girl” Maisie Peters, Maisie Peters with heavier production, Maisie Peters with a sharper edge. This is the Maisie Peters who adds a sample of her fans cheering her name at a concert to the end of her first song, just for impact. She’s gone to America! But at the same time, the essence of her first album is still there: the tongue-in-cheek, purposely silly remarks about ex-boyfriends (‘You have two types, country and western…’, ‘You took a road trip into the mountains, it seems like all of my exes have done that…’), the guitar licks and humming vocal samples, notable from ‘Hollow’ from her first album to ‘Want You Back’ in this one, and references to her friends and the people in her life.
This is “pop-girl” Maisie Peters, Maisie Peters with heavier production, Maisie Peters with a sharper edge
The album starts out with the blurry-sounding ‘The Good Witch’, then makes its way through songs searing in their criticism of the men Maisie has been in relationships with: a bad boy (‘Coming of Age’), then a pretentious boy who has a ‘camcorder out of the 90s’ (‘Watch’), then a boy who doesn’t seem to admire Maisie aesthetically (‘Body Better’). The tone then shifts. The songs grow softer, kinder, more reminiscent of her previous work. The piano makes an appearance as Maisie sings about someone she wishes she could go back to in ‘Want You Back’. As the song builds momentum into its bridge, you can even hear Ed Sheeran in the backing vocals (yes, it really is him!)
We take a break from this melancholy with ‘The Band and I’: a big, drum-heavy, celebratory song about touring the US with her band (Congratulations Dom for getting into Juilliard!) The ‘American dream’ drifts into her next song, ‘You’re Just a Boy (And I’m Kind Of The Man)’, where she curiously seems to sing the entire thing with a Southern accent. The cheeky lyrics assert her fed-up attitude towards her immature boyfriend: ‘I take in clowns like a one-woman circus, you might be awful but you’re not awful on purpose’.
The cheeky lyrics assert her fed-up attitude towards her immature boyfriend
The radio-friendly ‘Lost The Breakup’ starts the latter half of the album, and establishes for me that Maisie Peters can do pop really, really well. The song also did a great job of introducing aspects of the album prior to its release: the heavier, glossier production, the frequent use of synths, and the tendency to poke fun at the men who were once in her life. The Peter Pan inspired ‘Wendy’ follows after, and introduces a more contemplative and hindsight-oriented point in the album. Though the mixing is choppy and the background production distracting in parts, this is some of Maisie’s best writing – ‘If I’m not careful I’ll wake up and we’ll be married, and I’ll still flinch at the sound of the door’. ‘Run’ is a more pacy, experimental track about the perils of dating, and seemingly a smash hit on Spotify, being the most streamed track on ‘The Good Witch’ which isn’t a single. This is followed by ‘Two Weeks Ago’, a slow ballad about a lost love that Peters couldn’t go back to if she tried.
A tale of Maisie’s romantic endeavours, tinted in several different shades of heartbreak
‘BSC’ is a spiky, scrappy voice-note rant of a song about Mr. ‘I Don’t Want a Label’, who seems to have turned Maisie into ‘Little Miss Unstable’ (this particular line has been heavily memed on Twitter). This leads to the three last songs of the album which, to me, seem linked narratively into a yarn that details a heartrending breakup, the ‘heartbreak in remission’, and a wide-ranging, mythologically accurate exploration of the way the ‘History of Man’ often blames women for male indifference and cruelty. This ties the threads of the album together in a tale of Maisie’s romantic endeavours, tinted in several different shades of heartbreak. More often than not, the differing styles of the songs create a feeling of incoherence, but in moments of clarity, after more than a few listens, they begin to knit together into cohesion.
In conclusion, ‘The Good Witch’ is a new iteration of signature Maisie Peters, and I’m glad that she was able to retain her own particular pop identity. I see inspiration from other artists, but I’m hesitant to compare her to any of them, as she seems to be carving her own space, worthy of celebration. This is a lyrically fresh, sonically ambitious record that hits more than it misses, and has the strength to create its own identity in a music landscape where it’s much easier to be derivative.
In-article images courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/maisiehpeters/#. No changes were made to this image.
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