Age of Apathy is a different kind of pandemic album: engaged, ambitious, expansive. Instead of staying home in Brooklyn, Aoife O’Donovan moved her family to Florida, where she recorded guitar demos on her phone, livestreamed songs in progress via Full Sail University, and worked remotely with producer Joe Henry.
For those few months in Winter Park, freed from the demands of touring, O’Donovan felt her songwriting muse return (“Phoenix”) and her mind wander back to Brooklyn (“B61”), childhood (“What Do You Want from Yourself?”), touring (“Elevators”), and 9/11 (“Age of Apathy”), writing “Hold me like you held me on the day the towers fell.” That memory of cataclysm, with O’Donovan reaching adulthood “in the age of apathy/when nothing’s got a hold on you,” covers these songs like a layer of plaster dust, prompting lyrics like: “Was it the end or the beginning?” “Where do you want to die?” “How will I know if I’m the last one alive?” “What are we going to make of America?”
There’s a lifetime packed into each question, but when O’Donovan picks a happy-go-lucky pattern on six-string and asks, “What do I want?” there’s no clear answer from David Piltch (bass) or Jay Bellerose (drums), who play with a touch so delicate they barely cause a ripple. On an album where melodies rise and fall unpredictably, where only the unlikeliest notes feel right, it takes until the last song, “Passengers,” for O’Donovan to find a fragile equilibrium, a consolation in knowing “we’re passengers and the road is long.” A treasure.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.