Album Walkthrough: Alice Skye dissects the amazing I Feel Better But I Don’t Feel Good
The Wergaia and Wemba Wemba musician's second album is a potent collection of tracks that titles her as one of Australia's best.
Everyone out there knows that Alice Skye knows her way around a heartbreakingly beautiful melody. The Melbourne-based, Wergaia and Wemba Wemba musician's debut album - 2018's Friends With Feelings - was a potent 10 tracks that stirred with aching and emotive properties; a healing record full of catharsis and therapeutic expression that armed Alice Skye the title as one of the year's best breakthrough acts, and a go-to for tender songwriting rich with personality and intimacy.
It's a title that's stuck with the musician ever since, and while much of the three years since her debut record has been full of touring and writing album number two, capsules of new music have shown how Skye's songwriting has consistently grown and evolved alongside its creator. Take 2019's returning I Feel Better But I Don't Feel Good and its transparent view of someone finding their feet in the complexities of the world, or 2020's Grand Ideas, which felt like Alice Skye hitting all the marks perfectly, encapsulating her musical prowess on a level never before seen by the musician.
Now, it all comes together in the form of her long-awaited sophomore record, which like its first tease back in 2019, is titled I Feel Better But I Don't Feel Good; an album title that has become only more accurate as the album roll-out continued to unveil itself amongst a global pandemic. It's an album that builds upon the introduction to Alice Skye introduced through her debut, doubling down on the intimacy she's showcased in the past but showing it in a more refined sense, as Skye continues to evolve both musically and personally and times go on.
I Feel Better But I Don't Feel Good explores that journey, with Skye - joined by collaborator Jen Cloher and long-time friends Sam and Kane King - dissecting the peaks and valleys of her last few years with the intense passion and spirit that nestles itself within her lyricism, and the way she brings it to life through striking, guitar-driven pop. It's a rollercoastering ride of emotions reflective of everyone's last 18 months; songs like Hot Car and Stay In Bed tackling all-familiar topics of loss and depression, while songs like Everything Is Great are empowered with their therapeutic nature.
Regardless of each track's theme and associated range of emotions, however, Alice Skye's songwriting strives. Every moment of the record is carved through reflections and observations brought to life with the nuance and intelligence of someone who has gone through it, and the empowerment that Alice Skye possesses throughout I Feel Better But I Don't Feel Good is something that you can almost latch onto yourself; a beacon of visibility and comfortability as everything around descends into chaos and anxious unsureness.
There's something really beautiful in that visibility Alice Skye provides, and just as Friends With Feelings was a close friend in a time of need back in 2018, I Feel Better But I Don't Feel Good is bound to act in the same way, as Alice Skye reaches out through her catharticism and provides power for your own growth in difficult times. From the Jacob Diamond-assisted Homesickness to its title track and the closing Wurega Djalin (a spectacular moment sung in Alice's traditional, Indigenous language), every moment of this record is stamped with assuredness, and in a time like now, that's something everyone can only wish for.
I Feel Better But I Don't Feel Good is a wonderful record layered with deep meaning and heartfelt lyricism, and so to better understand the meanings amongst the album, we invited its creator - Alice Skye herself - to break down its themes and creation one song at a time. Check the album and its walkthrough below, as I Feel Better But I Don't Feel Good makes its arrival via Bad Apples Music now:
Stay in Bed
Sometimes I don’t remember writing songs very well, but I remember this one. I was living with my friends above a shisha bar that had recently burned down and I had these big roller window shutters that made my room pitch black. Which was both good and terrible for my mental health. Me and a good friend had been trying to catch up for weeks but both struggle with depression, the times that we both felt up to leaving the house just weren’t aligning - making us both feel worse about feeling bad in the first place. We laughed about it on the phone and swapped reassurance that it was ok to stay in bed, we’ll catch up on the other side. I hung up, closed the roller doors and wrote this song.
If I am completely honest, I don’t always feel like when talking about songs (partly because it’s exposing but also because I want listeners to make their own meaning/connection) but I’ll just run with it. I wrote the chorus of Grand Ideas driving home from a therapy appointment. It was CBT style and I was given some diagnoses’ that made me freak out. I think any health diagnosis can feel scary because you’re like “oh ok I have this thing now and I am forever changed”. Embarrassing of me to use this reference but I hear Emma Watson as Hermoine chime in with “fear of a name only increases fear of the things itself”. Which I don’t think is entirely applicable but I do have moments of feeling power in naming something, holding it, approaching it, putting it away, ignoring it when I need to etc.
Anyway, I drove home with the chorus ‘everything I have is too heavy to hold, everything I do feels out of my control’. Originally I only sang the chorus twice but in the studio with Jen and my band we just looped it over and over which ended up staying. I’m glad it did because now when we get to play it live it feels really cathartic.
Homesickness ft. Jacob Diamond
I wrote this song in my family home when we were all home for bonfire season. It’s a pretty personal song for me and ties up a lot of my feelings around returning home and then being smacked with a wall of all your residual feelings towards “home” and family and the place you grew up. You miss it, love it and there’s no place like it but you can be confronted by it, become sick of it, be scared to face it etc. There’s plenty of space for all things to be true at once.
Musically, I had very bare piano chords down, Sam King (guitarist) came up with that guitar riff and I was obsessed, he is so so so good at dancing around melodies. Kane King (drummer) came up with a beat that made it feel more playful to me which I loved immediately. I also just knew I wanted a duet moment because I am a sucker for them. Jacob has such a beautiful voice. One of my favourites
This was written during Christmastime here when it gets genuinely pretty hot and my car did kill some flowers I planned to take somewhere. This song wasn’t going to be on the album but when I showed it to my bandmates Sam and Kane, Jen who was producing, and Nick Huggins who engineered, we all related to it in some way. I don’t remember if I told them exactly what it was about but I liked that we all had our own attachment to it in some way.
I had the chorus down for this song for a while, but was struggling to put verses to it. I took it to my band, Sam came up with a chord progression on guitar, and the words came out on the spot. It’s a lot about that quote RuPaul says: “if you can’t love yourself, how you gonna love somebody else?” The browser history part came about because I accidentally left my Gmail account logged into my housemate’s computer and she saw everything I was googling :/
Everything is Great
The original version of this was probably half the tempo it is now, which feels so wrong now. This is one of my favourites to play live. I won’t delve into the back story too much. But I think we’ve all been there.
Going into the studio this was the song I was most excited about. I’d done a sketchy demo on Garageband using all these dirty guitar sounds and I just couldn’t wait for an actual guitarist (Sam) who knew what they were doing to play it. Even though the lyrics are very real and something I find hard to deal with, it was fun to work on. Getting stuck in relationships that feed the bad feelings you have towards yourself is tough. When that’s what becomes familiar it’s like your brain tricks you into thinking it’s what’s comfortable so that’s what you deserve. It’s not!!!
The Moon, The Sun
This was written years ago in the car when we were passing through Gundagai, driving from Melbourne to Canberra. I think we were all just having one of those ‘we are characters in a movie on a roadtrip and everything is uncertain but beautiful’ moments lol. Sam wrote the guitar hook and we all loved it. It was a song that got put on the shelf for quite some time but we never forgot it. It came together while we were in the studio and it just felt right to be on here.
I Feel Better but I Don’t Feel Good
As soon as I wrote this song I wanted it to be the title track. Originally written because after a show someone came up to me and said “beautiful songs, but you should write some happy ones”. I already felt pretty insecure about the fact that most of my songs are sad and being portrayed as a “sad girl” or whatever. Which yes, I can be, but I feel all the other feelings too, I just don’t know how to write about them yet.
I found comfort in the Dolly Parton’s America podcast. In the first episode ‘Sad Ass Songs’, she talks about her journey from getting all this sadness out and then feeling powerful enough to move on. My first album Friends with Feelings was really getting out a lot of my old emotions as a 16-20 year old. This one is me still figuring shit out, messing up a lot of the time, but being a bit more okay with that (sort of).
'Yergan gumbar yerginjan, wurega djalin' - translates to I am searching, I am listening, I will search to speak my tongue. I was really unsure about putting this on the album because I know Wergaia words, but I don’t know Wergaia grammar. I always thought if I was going to sing in my language, it needed to be perfect and “right”. But it became less about being ‘the perfect Aboriginal’ for people, and more about me doing something for my family. People speak about Aboriginal languages being “lost”, but they weren’t lost, they were purposefully hidden as a process of colonisation. We aren’t any less of who we are because of it. This song is for my siblings, cousins, aunties, parents, grandparents and anyone working to reclaim their identity.