Overlooking Los Angeles’ Echo Park is the statue “The Queen of Angels,” which became the inspiration for Lydia Ainsworth’s new record, Darling of the Afterglow. Ainsworth, a Torontonian electro-pop singer, released her album on March 31. She recorded the album in the same Toronto studio where she made her 2014 debut album, Right from Real. On April 29, she will perform songs from her new album at 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. The Mac Weekly sat down with Ainsworth to talk about her new album and this upcoming show.
“In the song ‘Afterglow,’” Ainsworth said, “I envision this statue singing to me and saying, ‘Hey little love, you’re the darling of the afterglow / take what you want, take what you need’ because she was offering me this kind of comfort in a time of loneliness and isolation. So I want whoever connects to my albums to feel like they can be the darling of the afterglow as well.”
Ainsworth’s grand synthesis of keyboards, cellos, strings, guitars and her own haunting voice creates a power pop orchestra in Darling of the Afterglow. The tracks on the album date back seven years. “A few songs required perspective and time to figure out what they needed,” Ainsworth said.
Melody and chord progression come first for Ainsworth. “Usually I start with some kind of inspiring sample or pattern and that acts as the spine of the song,” she said. “Whenever I’m writing it has to stem from an honest, emotional place, so I don’t try to string them together into some kind of narrative or overarching theme.”
Despite Ainsworth’s aversion to simple narratives, the thrill of first discovery seeps into all of Ainsworth’s writing. “I’m always trying to tap into this feeling of excitement I had as a child, of discovering the music that I love for the first time,” Ainsworth said. “I Can Feel It All,” a standout on the new album, chases the confusion and wonder of childhood discovery. “That song is about how, as a child … you are accessing all this information that’s flooding at you at once,” Ainsworth said.
On the bouncy track “Open Doors,” Ainsworth sings my favorite line: “Lend me your shoulder / I’ll sing you an alibi.” Ainsworth said that, in writing this lyric, she “was imagining someone lifting [her] head on their shoulder and describing a dream.” In this and other lyrics, Ainsworth describes the potential of dreamscapes to alleviate loneliness and trouble in relationships.
Ainsworth cites Belgian surrealist René Magritte as an inspiration for much of her work. Ainsworth’s video for “The Road” finds her alternately in a field, mourning the loss of a relationship, and in a neon-lit club where she tries to escape that morning. “We wanted to highlight the surreality of the song,” Ainsworth said, describing the club scenes as “a yearning for the memory of the relationship to live on forever.”
Ainsworth offers a theatrical show as she travels across the country with her new record. She’ll be singing and playing a keyboard with synths alongside a drummer and a local cellist in each city. At her Washington DC, Baltimore and New York tour stops, she sang next to a dancer who ad-libbed a performance.
The symphonic, synthy pop of Darling of the Afterglow promises to translate to an overwhelming live show at 7th Street this weekend.