Review: AJ Smith closes out 2021 with a poignantly relatable release, ‘Lonely Year’

Existential Magazine

Tatiana Whybrow

December 29, 2021

Former engineering student turned musician, AJ Smith has quite the unconventional background into music. Yet somehow this young indie-pop artist has gathered quite the collection of awards, including the prestigious Abe Oleman Scholarship from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a semi-finalist ranking in the 2020 International Songwriting Contest. Not only that, but AJ has been working on quite the obscure project alongside Time, Netflix, and SpaceX, as he teaches an astronaut how to perform the ukulele in space.

His musical discography dates back to 2015, with a handful of covers, before his own solo work in 2016 began to flourish. In this time, AJ has amassed nearing 20,000 Spotify listeners yet still remains quite the undiscovered gem - for now at least.

Now as we close out another tumultuous year, AJ concludes 2021 with a single that is sure to resonate with most from the title alone - 'Lonely Year’. Setting up with a soundscape purely of hauntingly echoey electric guitar plucks paired just with AJ’s mesmerisingly clean vocals, there’s little avoidance left to the story he lays out before you. But that’s not without captivating you for every instrumental touch and agonising tone that captures the depths of emotion served up for you to ache along with. Encouraging you to softly sway along, the dainty stringing of plucks adds an edge of unfiltered catchiness for every switched up note and progression - even if unintentional - making 'Lonely Year’ a little more digestible in its three minutes of candid thoughts.

A track entered around how lonely the past year has been may sound a little demotivating, but it’s safe to say that AJ speaks from the heart and wants his audience to know that if you’re having a tough time it’s not something you’re alone in. Beneath the tender undercurrent of this single’s introductory and conclusive notes explores a narrative spanning every season of heartache and loneliness divulged in a way you’ve never heard before. Leaving poignant lyricism to wholeheartedly carry this release along, the intentionally limited instrumentals make each word the forefront of your listening pleasures. Even from the recurrently hard-hitting first lines, 'I’ve read every book on self-help, shouldn’t that make me an expert on my mental health?’ throws you straight into the deep end of AJ’s brutally honest and pain-stricken mentality.

'Lonely Year’ is the perfect release to describe the universal longing 2021 has left in many of our hearts, so for a touch of melancholia and a soft undertone of catchiness, give it a listen here.

Written by: Tatiana Whybrow

Photo Credits: Blair Reinlie

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