Callum Preston

Alex Lahey's Empathetic, Vulnerable New Album Is a Guide to Surviving Your Twenties

On 'The Best of Luck Club,' the Australian songwriter forges ahead and never loses her faith in fun

Alex Lahey is very relatable. You may have heard. Following the 2016 release of her “highly likeable” breakthrough track, “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me,” the burgeoning Australian pop-punk artist not only won a substantial songwriting grant — “Her turn of phrase was quirky and intelligent, and really relatable,” said the prize’s namesake, Josh Pyke — but also went on to capture the hearts of critics and fans alike in the wake of this newly earned attention. After 2016’s B-Grade University EP, her 2017 debut LP, I Love You Like a Brother, and a late night television debut with Seth Meyers, Noisey U.K. called Lahey “relatable and ready for anything,” while Stereogum celebrated her “charming, relatable, and ultimately hopeful” approach to navigating early adulthood. Her music captured the sound of someone growing up, but feeling like they’re doing it all wrong — a feeling that is, well, pretty relatable.

Lahey’s appeal is no less present on I Love You Like a Brother’s follow-up, The Best of Luck Club, released today (May 17) via Dead Oceans. Its sweet and soaring pop-punk soundtracks the spiritual hangover that sets in as you gradually enter your late-twenties, a disorienting time in our lives when we fight to solidify the specifics of who we are and what we’re after. In the process, we perhaps settle down, take ourselves a little more seriously, slough off some relationships and adjust others. People change, but so do you.

For Lahey, that’s where The Best of Luck Club comes in. After settling in Nashville to begin writing her second album, she became drawn to the city’s dive bar scene — particularly, its oldest haunt, Dino’s, a place where she would often go to unwind after spending the day writing. Inspired by the warmth and the “anything goes” attitude of the space, the structure for the album loosely frames each song as the story of a fellow elbow-bender, another patron at the counter sharing their troubles, hearing yours, and signing off from the conversation with a well-meaning, “Best of luck.”

“All the people that inhabit the album exist within me. That’s the thing — I think even within all of us as individuals, there are so many different stories and different characters within us,” she tells MTV News. “We express so much of so many different people within ourselves. That’s why I think it’s so important to be able to empathize. That’s a really important part of the ethos of The Best of Luck Club: The vibe is that we’re not all that different, which is why we need to look after each other. The Best of Luck Club is that place where we can go and support one another.”

Dead Oceans

It’s that vulnerability, Lahey says, that’s so key to not only surviving this period of change in your life, but enjoying it.

“There’s so much power in vulnerability, and if you’re not able to be a vulnerable individual, you’re not going to reap the benefits or the rewards of being really happy and courageous at the end of that,” she says. “That’s something that’s a big part of the spirit on this album: Putting it all out on the table and feeling the relief of that and the happiness that comes with that.”

Written over the period of 12 months, The Best of Luck Club caught Lahey at a moment where she was finding her footing both professionally and personally, beginning to understand the balance of managing a thriving career in music with the responsibility to maintain long-term relationships and friendships. Along the way, she moved in with her girlfriend, played nearly every instrument you hear on The Best of Luck Club (yes, including the tearing sax solo on “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”), and even co-produced it with Melbourne native Catherine Marks. Pairing with Marks was crucial to making the album, Lahey notes, as her meticulous production and engineering expertise — which has contributed to songs and albums by The Killers, Foals, Local Natives, and a favorite of Lahey’s, The Big Moon — helped the two form a tight-knit, creative bond that steered the project’s softhearted core.

Together, they were guided by a simple philosophy: “Trying shit and seeing how it makes you feel,” Lahey says. Holed up in Melbourne’s Sing Sing South recording studio every day for a little over a month, they were able to immerse themselves in The Best of Luck Club, spending hours searching for that one sound that could strike a certain emotional chord — a marked difference from the process of making ILYLAB, Lahey notes, which was recorded in chunks of time around her first tour.

“There was so much laughing and fun and mucking around in making the record,” Lahey says. “Fun is a big thing that I want to come out of this record. I want people to have a lot of fun with it, and I want them to interpret it in the way that fits their lives — to go with the metaphor, that they can go in the door and have a seat, that there is somewhere they are understood.”

Throughout the album, Lahey keeps that door ajar. The Best of Luck Club begins with “I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore,” a power-chord-backed romper braced by lines engineered to pierce the heart: “I’ve lost track, it’s caught me by surprise / Can I go back and not be left behind?” Lahey sings close to its final, sweeping chorus, pining for a chance to reconnect with people as they’ve begun to fade away. The song finds its subject at a crucial turning point in their life: The moment they suddenly realize that everything and everyone they know is a little different now.

“‘I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore’ is about coming out of your own scene in your early-twenties and people have jobs and they’re moving on into their own relationships and commitments and you have to adjust the way you interact with them and adjust your expectations,” Lahey explains. “Sometimes, especially with school relationships and college relationships and that kind of thing, these bonds form kind of in a very institutional way — you go to the same place every day, you see the same people, and you create a relationship, which is wonderful and beautiful, but that doesn’t last forever. That way of getting to know someone doesn’t last forever. And you kind of have to change and adjust with the new environment that you find the relationship in.”

In kind, the album goes on to explore self-doubt (“Am I Doing It Right?”), heartbreak (“Unspoken History”), and aimless one-night stands (“I Need to Move On”). “Misery Guts” — a familiar ripper for any ILYLAB fan, and a favorite of Lahey’s touring bandmates — is a kiss-off to the backseat drivers in your life when you need to instead find your own way.

“Don’t project your shit on me so you can feel better about yourself by telling me what to do because you feel like you can,” Lahey says. “That takes many different forms. A classic is the old dude coming up to you at the end of a gig being, like, “You know what I think would sound really good…?” That kind of thing, which is so fucking annoying.”

Despite its bouts with these recognizable crises, though, The Best of Luck Club manages to find a happy ending. The album closes on “Black RMs,” a love-struck anthem to the sensation of finding your soulmate, and “I Want to Live With You,” which treats shacking up with the tender romance of a John Hughes movie’s climactic kiss. That the album arcs so neatly is merely coincidence, Lahey notes, but it’s not hard to see the parallels between its tidy conclusion and the changes Lahey has made to her own life — or the journey any 20-something might weather as they stumble toward a surer version of themselves.

Altogether, The Best of Luck Club is akin to ILYLAB’s sweeter cuts like “Awkward Exchange” and “Lotto In Reverse” — the guitar effects and synth flourishes devised by Marks support Lahey’s rowdy playing and give the album a dreamy, arresting glow. If there’s a certain listlessness that develops in us as we get older, a loss of lust for life as we grapple with our own insecurities, poor decisions, and waning ties, Lahey and Marks are the antidote.

With her second album, the vulnerable, empathetic songwriter continues to chart a course for growing up that is certainly relatable but, most of all, inspiring. Through heartache, missteps, fear of the future, and all, Lahey doesn’t let us lose our faith in fun, old friendships, forging new bonds, nor the capacity to be energized by those we find. The Best of Luck Club is open for all these stories. All we have to do is pull up a chair.