Published May 08, 2019Phantom Forest continues where Lydia Ainsworth left off with her full-length debut two years ago. Darling of the Afterglow was a symphony of dark, layered synth instrumentation and angelic harmonies from the Toronto native, whose background is in classical music. Phantom Forest is the projected image produced from her debut in softer tones, and details a beautiful isolation that protects and traps its protagonist.
The album deftly balances enchantment with anguish. The opener, "Diamonds Cutting Diamonds," a glittering synth-pop track, introduces us to the protagonist, a "sweet bird of prey" who lives and hunts in exile. "Tell Me I Exist" follows, and has Ainsworth oscillating between coolly dissecting her circumstance over hi-hats and warbling, reverberating synths in the verses, and drowning in pure emotion, as she sings with a repressed desperation in the chorus: "Prove that I'm still here / Prove that I'm enough."
On certain tracks, Ainsworth excels in painting these vividly romanticist pictures. "Can You Find Her Place" has her likening our protagonist's nature to that of a delicate, feral creature: "By the riverside / Drinking from the same stream every night / As the wolves / Where does she go?" On others, like "Edge of the Throne" or "Kiss the Future" the heavy synth instrumentation tends to drowns out her narrative, making them aesthetically pleasant, but — compared to the other tracks — forgettable.
Phantom Forest ends with the atmospheric "Floating Dream," which describes the protagonist "Rising past the horizon / Far beyond the mountains / Pushing past the distance screams of ghosts and angels sighing / Sighing through the night," over acoustic guitars, and "Green Is the Colour," a cover of the Pink Floyd song, a soft epilogue for what's been a lonely, tiring journey. (Independent)