Phoebe Ryan’s Debut Album ‘How It Used to Feel’ is a Nostalgic Revelation

Phoebe Ryan’s Debut Album ‘How It Used to Feel’ is a Nostalgic Revelation

Phoebe Ryan’s Debut Album ‘How It Used to Feel’ is a Nostalgic Revelation

V Premieres the release, charting the artist’s most volatile and authentic work to date.

V Premieres the release, charting the artist’s most volatile and authentic work to date.

Text: Dante Silva

“I'm holding on to all the pieces of my heart's debris / 'Til it's time,” Phoebe Ryan emphasized in her debut single, Mine, released nearly five years ago. Certainly, she’s done just that: allowed herself to revel in the emotional ‘debris’, an amalgamation of introspective highs and lows (and everything in between). The authenticity—one that’s established her as one of the most prolific writers in the industry to date—becomes all the more evident at the top of How it Used to Feel, released earlier this morning. “When the sun falls down / And there's no more sound / When you're no longer around and I lose my faith,” she articulates. It’s darker, yet surrounded by infectious harmonies, a bit idiosyncratic. 

The dissonance resurfaces throughout every track on How it Used to Feel, written over the course of the last few years. There’s a bit of an upbeat, pop-adjacent cadence, one which certainly takes many detours. The rhythm is a familiar one for Ryan: she’s been in the industry for almost a decade, having written for the likes of Melanie Martinez to Britney Spears. Her work is raw, and, perhaps more importantly, it resonates. In an industry wherein ‘fake’ has become a profane pejorative, there’s something to say for the lack of synthetics. 

“I didn’t think there was ever really a choice” Phoebe tells V. “I’ve always been an open book as an artist. I think it’s better to share experiences with others, how else will people connect?”

The 13-track LP is, indeed, somewhat of an open book. Or maybe it’s more aptly termed an open love letter to what could’ve been, embedded with a centralized nostalgia. Phoebe seems to indulge those fantasies (for instance, in the Flaming Lips-esque ‘Fantasy’), asking what if things were different? And yet, she doesn’t linger in the realm of the fantastical for too long. There’s more vulnerable admissions of all that comes beneath the surface, as she unravels her own, self-created facades. 

‘Try it Sober’ does just that. On an initial listen, it plays like an anthemic, nonchalant melody, not dissimilar to work she’s done for other artists. But taken in context, it offers an insight into her own internal quandaries. “I wanna know if this is real / now that I’m getting older”, her voice echoes. “I never said I won’t have fun / I just wanna try it sober.” The interlude ‘Henny’ is a reiteration, yet more harrowing. It’s not quite as polished, with less rounded edges—in the way that any reckoning has to be.  

“I can pinpoint the moments behind every line of every song. Every emotion I went through to get to every place I landed.” The release is cathartic in and of itself, facing the more precarious aspects of intimacy. It’s a self-described time capsule, one which preserves—as Phoebe mentions—“a lot of feelings”. 

At the same time, it comes with the social and political tensions of the current moment, impossible to ignore. The release was pushed back in response to ongoing protests, as Ryan (and others) looked to listen to and amplify the voices of the Black community. And there is, of course, work left to do. Though, as she notes, "it's not hard to do what's absolutely right". Ryan, inspired by the likes of Bob Dylan, remains committed to that work, using her own platform to spread informative materials and resources. She even hosts a book club every Thursday night, focusing on anti-racist readings. (Rest assured, there’s still space for her ‘Minecraft Mondays’). 

There's something to say for her online presence. Perhaps, just as the generation she's a part of, she finds some the internet to be an escapist coping mechanism. Or rather, it provides the opportunity to connect with her fans, considered her 'most supportive friends'. The album is, after all, intended to be listened to, shared, engaged with, etc. Phoebe's most concerned with "what my fans feel. I want them to be able to listen to this album 20 years from now and remember exactly how they felt during this time. I want it to become a little time capsule for them, the way it is for me."

Listen below:

Credits: Image by Acacia Evans

UP NEXT

Everything You Need to Know About Rihanna's Fenty Skin
Rihanna’s new skincare line launches July 31 and products cost $35 or less.