By Ted Davis
If you follow underground rock music, thereâ€™s a good chance that you have at least heard the name Palberta. For 10 years, the New York City band worked hard to carve a niche for themselves in the indie scene, touting an angular, sludgy sound that falls somewhere between The Raincoats and Palm. At its front is Lily Konigsberg, a quirky songwriter whose energy and charisma carry the actâ€™s distinctive attitude. Palbertaâ€™s work is minimal and lo-fi, but Konigsbergâ€™s wonky musicianship and spunky vocals helped make them one of the most prolific and playfully bizarre outfits to emerge from the Northeastâ€™s thriving punk circuit.
Although Konigsberg has stayed busy making records and touring with Palberta, she carved out time on the side to write solo material. Where her work with the band is sweaty and freewheeling, her solitary output is sunnier and more outwardly cheeky. Drawing from early 2000s radio pop, Konigsbergâ€™s solo debut, Lily We Need to Talk Now, is a surprising departure. Citing childhood favorites like Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, and Liz Phair as key touchstones for the record, many of the perky tracks return to mind long-lost cuts from the soundtracks to movies like 10 Things I Hate About You or 13 Going on 30.
â€œI loved good-quality pop,â€ Konigsberg told MTV News over Zoom, reflecting on her favorite music from when she was younger. â€œI loved those rom-com songs that would come in at the end of the movie and youâ€™d associate that song with the movie and youâ€™d know all the lyrics.â€
But while Konigsberg was listening to bubbly, nostalgic singles while writing Lily We Need to Talk Now, out today (October 29), she wasnâ€™t quite able to eschew the darkness in her life. Conceived in the throes of relationship turmoil, as she simultaneously battled an addiction sheâ€™s since kicked, the recordâ€™s sonic optimism belies an intensity lurking beneath. â€œI went through a breakup during COVID, or it was expedited by COVID,â€ she said. â€œThere were a lot of songs that were a different aspect of the grief and the anger and the sadness and blaming yourself.â€
The mall-pop, acoustic guitar-driven â€œSweat Foreverâ€ is written in a nonsensical style that captures the gravity of Konigsbergâ€™s mental turbulence. With lyrics like, â€œI was right / The last time that I saw you / Said goodbye / Knowing it would be forever,â€ the track juxtaposes the DayGlo elation of its instrumental with depressed musings. â€œIâ€™m just a little too much of an oddball to write a perfect early 2000s pop gem, but Iâ€™m still really influenced by it, and you can tell that,â€ Konigsberg said.
Produced by Water From Your Eyes multi-instrumentalist Nate Amos, the album came to life after the two decided to record â€œSweat Foreverâ€ at his house together. Amos took the reins, shaping the songs on Lily We Need to Talk Now as the two also played together in the duo My Idea. While they worked closely over the pandemic, they wrote over 50 songs in the course of just a few months. You can hear the push and pull of their partnership in Konigsberg’s solo work, grounded in her straightforward rock songwriting yet toying with Amos’s whimsical electronic experimentation.
â€œWe just found a musical partner that was equal in their pop sensibility,â€ Konigsberg said, describing their unique creative chemistry. “We were a once-in-a-lifetime musical partnership. We had to do it.”
Amos, a lifelong bluegrass player with a penchant for warm psychedelia, stepped outside of his sonic comfort zone behind the boards. â€œDonâ€™t Be Lazy With Meâ€ centers on washes of organic ambience, driven by pianos, synths, and horns. â€œAloneâ€ is syncopated and dancey, and feels a bit like the work of an early 2010s PBR&B artist. Meanwhile, â€œHarkâ€ is stripped back and shuffling, with just a wink of outlaw attitude. Like every Konigsberg endeavor to date, thereâ€™s something unplaceable about the album, even though it evokes a specific era.
Lily We Need to Talk Now isnâ€™t all cheery instrumentals and spirited melodies, though. â€œTrueâ€ dabbles in chaotic post-punk and surf rock. â€œBad Boyâ€â€™s chunky, churning instrumental brings to mind the exciting early years of Palberta. Meanwhile, â€œProud Homeâ€ is a downright ripper, with its â€™90s-indebted riffing and motorik groove. â€œIâ€™m not a painfully depressed person, but I feel like a pretty complex person,â€ Konigsberg said. â€œNot to say that everyone isnâ€™t complex. I think everyone is. But I have a lot of darkness in me, and I also have a lot of light in me.â€ You can hear this duality when listening to the record in full. At times, itâ€™s inviting and chipper. At others, itâ€™s severe, even stoic.
â€œAddicts donâ€™t really know when theyâ€™re addicts sometimes, like, how thatâ€™s affecting their writing or anything like that,â€ she continues. â€œIâ€™m sure being at the peak of my addiction was an influence.â€
The release of Lily We Need to Talk Now coincides with a turning point for Konigsberg. After a decade of playing shows with Palberta, the band decided to take an indefinite hiatus. â€œWeâ€™re gonna take a break because, honestly, itâ€™s really hard to be in so many projects,â€ she said. â€œYou really canâ€™t grow enough in each one while youâ€™re doing so much.â€ Although Konigsberg insists theyâ€™ll be back, Lily We Need to Talk Now heralds a new phase in her career where sheâ€™ll be focusing on performing her solo work and writing for My Idea. As she leaves bad habits in the rearview and puts these emotionally heavy songs out into the world, Konigsbergâ€™s new concoctions may embrace a new tone.
â€œFor my next album, the influence will really be my friends and love and being grateful,â€ Konigsberg said, musing about how she thinks brighter times might shape her upcoming music. Lily We Need to Talk Now plays like the work of someone trying to recapture the spirit of youth. When listened to closely, though, itâ€™s more adult. As Konigsberg heals in tandem with the world around her, it seems as if her mindset might finally mirror her newfound aesthetic disposition.