Orla Gartland: Woman on the Internet review – a headlong dive into twentysomething life
“There’s no manual, and if there is, I haven’t read it,” asserts 26-year-old singer-songwriter Orla Gartland, a Dubliner transplanted to London, on Things That I’ve Learned, the opening track of her long-in-the-crafting debut. Thus primed, she tips the listener headlong into the scrum that is your 20s, when self-doubt and growing self-assurance wrestle one another to the mat. The emotional wrangle is skilfully handled, knife-sharp, funny lyrics carving out beautifully structured songs – co-produced by Gartland – with never a note wasted, dancing nimbly across styles. The thrillingly rushy You’re Not Special, Babe finds her knocking grandiose little traumas wittily into perspective over romping riffs and pulsing beats full of clean young energy. Zombie! tries on early-80s power pop, Pat Benatar-style, as it mourns the fate of men trapped in rigid macho posturing.
The “woman on the internet” of the album title appears first on the gleaming, Lorde-like More Like You, a wellbeing guru urging self-love as a cure for envy. In Pretending, she’s a social media makeup maven from whom Gartland learns an eyeshadow look to hide her social anxiety behind at a party. The song evolves from pop-punk dynamics to richly emotional, expansive indie rock as she asks herself “who are you so afraid to be?” – an object lesson that the only advice the impressively self-possessed Gartland needs is her own.