Heartbreaker or Heartbroken? Stephen Babcock Explores His Growth on ‘When We Were Kids Ourselves’
When Stephen Babcock comes to Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe this Friday, he will do so in celebration of his new album, When We Were Kids Ourselves. The 10-track offering is a nod to the ways we grow, as we encounter life changes and challenges in our relationships — with others, as well as ourselves.
“This album is about the journey and growth experiences post ‘growing up,'” Babcock states. “It’s so easy to feel isolated when you’re taking on something challenging in life, and we tend to normalize the idea that in adult life, we’re supposed to have it all figured out by now. I hope my music serves as a bastion for people experiencing challenging emotions, and I hope my voice can help those struggling to find the words they’re looking for in their own life.”
The growth – i.e.; discomfort — depicted on the new record hits us flush through Babcock’s succinct lyrics. The reality? Navigating relationships in a post-pandemic world is tough, and the endeavor will often leave you questioning where you stand.
The good news? Babcock’s mellow vocal delivery helps soften the blow, delivering perspective on top of soothing lo-fi, folk-rock-meets-bedroom-pop dreamscapes. Even tracks like album opener “Worst Ways” and focus track “Heart Off” — which deal with the as-yet-unrealized desire to let go of an expired love — provide a warm embrace, as if to say, “We’ve all been there, and you’re going to get through this.”
That sense of warmth helps us press forward through the pain of being left behind. “Still Think of You” takes an upbeat turn from a sonic standpoint, illustrating the fact that life goes on, even as our resilience comes and goes in waves. We then encounter a downward emotional wave on “Internet Friends,” which stands as a matter-of-fact acknowledgement that this relationship is over — and, although it hurts, it’s probably for the best.
When We Were Kids Ourselves isn’t exclusively full of rainy days. The sunny, jangly “I Just Can’t” is a playful moment in the midst of all the introspection. Whereas the early portion of the album dealt with the difficulty of moving on, this one signifies a new day, marked by the discovery of a new and exciting love. However, we must remember that the dopamine rush that accompanies a new connection doesn’t last forever. By follow-up track “Meant for Me,” we find Babcock once again grappling with doubt, as an off-and-on love re-emerges to muddy the waters.
As our journey continues, one thing becomes clear: we only control the ways we show up and respond to the relationship challenges present throughout our lives. There is perhaps no better example of that notion than closing track, “The Diner.” The ominous guitar dirge illustrates the pain of recognizing an irreparable disconnect; even so, our protagonist acknowledges that he is only 50 percent of the equation, and that it would take both participants doing their part to make the relationship whole.
Check out When We Were Kids Ourselves below. And, as a special treat, take a look at Babcock’s own track-by-track explanation of the album!
Still Think of You
I Just Can’t
Meant for Me
All I Can Do