With her full-length debut album, Leipzig-based singer-songwriter Blush Always has come along at the right time. Arriving in September 2023, You Deserve Romance is a self-empowerment manifesto with crashing indie rock guitars and irresistible melodies of captivating urgency.
Considering the playful ease that Blush Always injects into her songs on her debut album You Deserve Romance, you wouldn’t believe for a moment that this woman has only been writing songs on her guitar and performing them for barely two years. In much the same way as Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy or Beabadoobee, Blush Always has distilled the essence of punk-inspired indie guitar music of the past 40 years with great pop sensibility. On You Deserve Romance she renegotiates the insights gained in this way entirely – for her era, from the perspective of her generation.
And yet it’s true: Blush Always has been playing the piano since she was four years old, but she is still at the very beginning of her career as a songwriter, singer and guitarist. So far, there have been only a handful of concerts and her Postpone EP, released in spring 2022. The EP was arranged and produced together with German indie rock band Leoniden, whose guitarist Lennart Eicke had discovered Blush Always at one of her early Kiel concerts.
With her first album, however, she now arrives at the right time: following a period of creative languor in rock music, a new indie rock movement has formed in recent years, at first unnoticed by the mainstream, but gradually more clearly, in a more parity-oriented form than the boys’ scenes of earlier decades. And perhaps that’s why it’s so exciting: Soccer Mommy, Snail Mail, Wolf Alice, Idles, Fontaines D.C. – one could go on forever.
In Germany, apart from Ilgen-Nur, things have remained relatively quiet in this respect -another reason why it is a blessing that Blush Always now exists. Blush Always took the title of her debut You Deserve Romance from Sally Rooney’s recent book “Beautiful World, Where Are You?”. “For quite a while, I kept getting involved in strange, not necessarily healthy relationships,” she says. “Through reading this book and further analysis, I realized that one reason for staying in these toxic relationships was my chronic self-doubt. For a long time, I didn’t think I deserved any more affection or romance than I had in those relationships in the first place.”
So now the sentence is written on the cover of her first album as a note to self. In fact, Blush Always sheds light on various aspects of modern couple relationships. The first single Virtual For You, for example, describes the suggested closeness of a FaceTime relationship and the accompanying desire for physical closeness. It’s about the question of what feelings are worth when they’re only transported via the internet, and whether romance can develop at all in this way: “How strange life is lately/We coexist daily, I/Just see your face on a screen/Forgot your smell but I don’t mind,” sings Blush Always.
Blush Always dives into a sound of grungy guitars and loud hooks, enchanting with multifaceted-emotional Coming of Age songs, as the name of the second album track is even called. They fascinate because of their effortless earworm qualities and thus pleasantly set themselves apart from all the bands that want to be indie, but sound like mainstream. In the hook she sings: “They don’t know/What you’re going through babe/We’re coming of age/If we regret one thing it’s to be ashamed.
Taking her dreams in her own hands and pouring them into wonderful melodies, Blush Always sets herself free with this album. The songs suck you in further and further until you don’t want to live without them. It’s a collection of songs about longing and the unattainability of things, about the sweet magic of unfulfilled promises. “But who is the you in your songs /I think you are the you in my songs,” she sings in Our Moans Would Echo.
In Oddly Romantic she shows what falling in love can sound like: “I’m weak in the knees/What an infinite tease/ Music is a feeling.” A song about finding each other through music: “You say it’s oddly romantic/How I changed your algorithm.” It fits that Blush Always composes with a proven pop sensibility and really knows how to write songs instead of just layering melodies over riffs. You can just hear in these songs that they are not creatures of the mind, but come directly from the gut, the heart and the soul.
A so-called Riot Grrrl, however, Blush Always is not – for that she is too casual and too nonchalant. If anything, the album owes much more to the Breeders or Fiona Apple than, say, Bikini Kill or Hole. Blush Always mixes terseness with soulful abandon, achieving exactly the emotional contradiction to which her music is committed. The special thing about this album, however, is how confidently Blush Always relies on the power of her voice and her stirring playing. At no point does You Deserve Romance, produced by Magnus Wichmann, succumb to the temptation to over-glamorize these songs and take away their power through an excessive use of production tools.
“Your Call”, a massive, dynamic song bursting with playfulness, once again shows her love for indie rock with a ‘90s flair, but sounding more raw and noisy than other similarly inspired artists who show less courage to create walls of sound.
The album has many facets, indie rock is only the basis: Divers, a reference to Joanna Newsom, is a hauntingly beautiful ballad that Blush Always initially accompanies only with guitar and sings with herself in a startlingly beautiful choir. Only when bass and drums join in, the song briefly morphs into a wistful alternative banger. Blue also begins with acoustic guitars and has an almost oppressive intensity. In moments like these, Blush Always seems to sit in the same room as you, before reliably floating off into higher realms with the next chorus.
Blush Always has come a long way to be able to write, record and perform these songs as they are now. But sometimes she prefers to just be at home, which is why there’s a song about that, too: At Home. “I often find myself just staying home, daydreaming about something” she says. For example, she rather writes another song than go out, in which she rips out the wings of her lover: “I’d rather write a song and rip out both your wings,” she sings.
If the lover then sits in her apartment without wings, it might get quite lonely in the near future: In fall, Blush Always goes on her first own tour, after You Deserve Romance will be released in September 2023. There you will meet a musician who always finds the right tone, even in between songs. Through a mixture of her typical North German reserve, charming shyness and a nonchalance that’s difficult to put into words, she comes across just like her music: honest, undisguised, genuine!