The Northern California native Ruby Landen honed her musical talent across an entire ocean, spending her days busking in the Paris Metro. When you listen to her music, in what can be described as a mix of folk, Americana, and alt-country, you can almost hear the dichotomy between artist and venue. It’s like she’s captured the essence of feeling like a singular voice in a huge, crowded place, but bottled it up and let it brew to create a sensation of warm, airy grandeur.
Coming off the heels of an impressive EP in 2019, Landen’s proper debut album is sure to be promising. Her latest single, “I Look Like My Mother,” offers a glimpse into what that debut might sound like. “I Look Like My Mother” is a song that details Landen’s relationship with her father and other men, a song that she admits was “written in a retrospective state…in and out of different temporal and spatial focal points, bounding between inner-speculation, self-doubt and criticism.”
It may seem like a heavy load, but Landen emerges graceful and level-headed in this single, balancing some lovely instrumentation with those daunting feelings of anxiety that she described. Utilizing clear imagery, Landen sings atop a delicately strummed folksy guitar lick. “Collecting broken bottles to decorate my bed / And when the night breeze hits, my skin I’ll gladly shed.” Yet, no more than three lines in, Landen points her perceptive eye inwards rather than outwards, revealing the anxieties that lie within: “Build me out of sticks and concrete / Because I can’t find a home / In this body.” After a pause, she begins to wonder aloud: “If I was better made / Would I know my own name?”
Insecurity and self-doubt can be painful shards, but Landen is not content with wallowing in despair. A warm, sonorous French horn surrounds her gentle vocals with an aura of assured grace. Even though at heart the lyrics of the song embody “sort of a self-exploratory deja-vu,” the instrumentation stands proudly and confidently. Landen sounds like someone who’s been developing her musical chops for years, not a surprise given her delightful background in Celtic fiddle.
“Don’t confuse the quiet with the sound of defeat,” Landen sings halfway through “I Look Like My Mother.” If there was one line that encapsulates the magic that the Brooklyn-based artist conjures in her latest single, it would be this. Here, she sounds delicate, restrained, and unhurried—but don’t mistake it for inexperience or insecurity; Landen’s abilities are clear. Her debut studio album is one that I will be looking out for.