The best records are the timeless ones – the ones that move between the worlds of genre and popular music and will remain classic years after being released. When Cam embarked on her sophomore album, The Otherside, out now, she made sure to make an album that would move you, regardless of what is being played on the radio now, and she did so successfully.
The opener, “Redwood Tree” is a conversation between Cam and a tree that lives in her hometown, a place she hasn’t visited in quite some time. This tree watched Cam grow up and her parents get older, and it’s like her personal time capsule. It’s serene sounding, and it sounds like it could be the score of a movie.
Title track “The Otherside” is a mysterious, poppy song co-written with the late Avicii, and it’s one that Cam spent a lot of time perfecting. “[Avicii] never wound up releasing that song, so I was like, ‘Ooh, maybe that means I can,’” she shared with Apple Music. “Even though it’s such a heavy thing not having him around for the final edits, I did feel this great responsibility to work my ass off to get it right. Because I knew that’s what he would have done.”
Previously released tracks “Diane” and “Classic” are retro vibe-wise. “Diane” is like a response-song to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. “Diane, I promise I didn’t know he was your man/I would have noticed a gold wedding band.” Rhythmically, both “Diane” and “Classic” sound old-school, but the vocal and instrumental production make it sound new – especially on the lead single, “Til There’s Nothing Left”. Cam’s main collaborator has always been Tyler Johnson, and together they crafted a sound that is modern for country radio in an artistic, effortless way.
“Forgetting You” and “What Goodbye Means” are gorgeous, classic country ballads about love that’s fizzled out but stays frozen in one’s mind. “What Goodbye Means” was written about a friend of Cam’s going through a messy divorce. “[My friend] was being so kind [to his ex]. I asked him, ‘How are you being so nice right now? I don’t get it.’ And he said, ‘Because she might change her mind,’” Cam said in an interview with Apple Music. “I still get goosebumps thinking about it. We’ve all been there, not quite ready to accept the reality of something, and that’s okay.” On the chorus, she pines, singing, “Was it something I did?/Was it something I didn’t do?/Do you just need some time?/Maybe take one more night to think it through.” You can hear the heartbreak clearly in both songs, and that’s what really makes them stand out.
Masked by a wistful, folksy rhythm, “Changes” is one of the truly evocative and uncomfortably relatable moments in the best way. Sometimes you outgrow the things you love most or the things that shaped you into who you are now – it could be a person, or in this case, a hometown – and it leaves you feeling a little lost. Did I change or did they? Cam didn’t write this song, but Lori McKenna and Harry Styles did, and they famously have ties to their hometowns of Stoughton, Massachusetts, and Holmes Chapel, England respectively. They captured that strange feeling of guilt and reminiscing perfectly.
“The demo had Lori McKenna singing with Harry on background vocals and his whistle, which is still in the track,” Cam tells Apple Music. “It was amazing to hear a song that someone else wrote that clicked so much with me personally.” The guitar is sparkly in the way that innocence is, and Styles’ whistle sounds far away, like childhood years slipping through the cracks.
The album’s closer, a stunning Natalie Hemby co-write is “Girl Like Me”, which sounds like a cross between Dawes and Carole King. “It’s funny how sometimes you can’t recognize your own self,” Cam told Apple Music. The piano aches, and vocally, she soars on the chorus. “Well, they’re gonna give up on you/You’re gonna give up on them/And if it’s somebody you really love/You’re gonna find a way to love ‘em again”. It’s a message to those who feel doubt out there, but it’s also a message to Cam herself. You can lose yourself and find yourself all over again.
It’s a cinematic, captivating multi-sided story through and through, and Cam proves herself to be one of the best artists in music right now. There is so much chaos in the world right now, and for just under 40 minutes, Cam has provided an escape. “It’s a gift to be able to see life for what it is,” she said to Apple Music. “I think anyone who has been through that phase of disillusionment will think, ‘Oh yeah, tough.’ But this side is better.”
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NYCS Staff Picks:
Til There’s Nothing Left
What Goodbye Means
Like A Movie
THE OTHERSIDE TRACKLISTING:
Like A Movie
Till There’s Nothing Left
What Goodbye Means
Happier For You
Girl Like Me
The Otherside is now available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music here on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.
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