“Take up all the space, even when you think you don’t deserve it,” sings Orla Gartland less than a minute into ‘Things That I’ve Learned’, the line feeling as though it has been ripped straight from a list of self-affirmations. As a former YouTuber who has fought to be taken seriously as an independent artist by both the public and industry heads, Gartland may well have repeated these words to herself; having amassed over 200,000 subscribers since 2012, she has explained multiple times that she doesn’t want her following to eclipse her music.
‘Woman On The Internet’, the Dublin native’s long-awaited debut album, is a progression of the radiant pop and folk stylings she has developed online for close to a decade. As with the gutsy ‘You’re Not Special, Babe’ – its rippling, tightly percussive chorus is a real standout – this is treading new ground for Gartland; having honed a brand of pleasant ditties on previous EPs ‘Why Am I Like This’ and ‘Freckle Season’, a little wonkiness suits her well.
Gartland continues to make bolder, more interesting leaps as the record progresses. There is a sharp edge to much of it; the Hole-channelling ‘Codependency’ kicks off with a squalling riff, and her knotted multi-part harmonies really bite alongside loops of rattling drums. After a rock star intro (“Alright, let’s go!”), piano notes become punctured by unnerving electronic whirrs on ‘Left Behind’, while ‘Zombie!” reveals deeper textures over time as heady layers of guitar begin to unfurl.
There’s still space, however, for the peppy, thoughtful, human pop that Gartland made her name on. Introvert anthem ‘More Like You’ dabbles between flashes of optimism and nihilism as it decontructs what it means to grow up online over fluttering beats. “I heard it from a woman on the internet/She told me to eat well and try to love myself”, she repeats.
Built on loops of light and sleepy drum machines, tracks such as ‘Madison’ and ‘Do You Mind’ are also purposefully small, building the type of gentle soundscape typically associated with coffee shops and lo-fi playlists. While Gartland’s newfound grit dominates elsewhere, these sparser moments easily dissolve into the next, yet there are a smattering of stray lyrics that do catch attention: “How are you so mechanical?/I was shouting/You just nodded”, so goes the latter’s striking refrain.
These clear, plucky songs may not be terribly adventurous for the most part, but they do feel like the ambitious work of an artist broadening their scope. Given the circumstances, ‘Woman On The Internet’ is a hard-won celebration of perseverance and artistic freedom, and of Gartland finally being able to frame her success in her own way.
- Release date: August 20
- Record label: New Friends Music