REVIEW: five seconds flat – Lizzy McAlpine

Zosia Stanton shares her thoughts on Lizzy McAlpine’s debut album, five seconds flat…

For a while, I didn’t believe I could find an album that compared to the beautifully desolate feeling I would get listening to Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher or Taylor Swift’s folklore. However, five seconds flat by Lizzy McAlpine has proven me wrong. This is the Philidelphia-based singer-songwriter’s second record and has grasped fans in a tight hold since its release. 

(photo from Duke Chronicle)

Usually, I cannot go for weeks on end listening to the same album without end, but this album is something I simply cannot get enough of. The growth of McAlpine in recent years is inspiring. Her first headline shows, The End of the Movie, are due to start in April with most shows fully sold out.  

Like me, thousands of fans marvel at McAlpine’s ability of developing characters and stories through her music. Her growth as an artist and her writing style has been clear since her release of Give Me a Minute in 2020. With five seconds flat, Lizzy has adopted a refreshing and new angle. The artist herself has described the record as “feeling dark blue and brown and black” which is exactly what listening to this record feels like – like a giant punch to the heart. However, as much as listening to the same songs on repeat boosts McAlpine’s Spotify streams, the meaning of the record and its beautifully raw journey through heartbreak is something that simply cannot continue to go unnoticed. 

(Photo from Emmie Magazine)

Something I love about Lizzy McAlpine’s music is feeling as though she is one of your best friends who knows all of your secrets and exactly how you feel. The relatability of her music is often a selling point for fans – new and old – and is probably one of the reasons why songs from the album like ceilings have taken off in the way that they have. Listening to her music, it is clear that McAlpine’s music is helping to bring broken hearts together. 

To accompany the release of the record, McAlpine worked with director Gus Black to release the half-hour short film Five Seconds Flat: The Film. Delving into the intricacies of the general feelings associated with loss and heartbreak, the short film centres around several of the songs from the record. Billboard dubbed it a “plot-twisty ballad of heart-stomping hallucinations” perfectly summing up how it feels to watch the film. The mix of Black’s cinematography and McAlpine’s music gives the film such a dreamy result. You can fully see the songs from McAlpine’s perspective. With quite a dark atmosphere in songs like doomsday, you can see the transformation in McAlpine’s music since her release of Give Me A Minute, with a more sinister undertone.  

In chemtrails, McAlpine truly broke my heart. The song focuses on McAlpine’s experience of grief after losing her father in 2020. The first line “I see chemtrails in the sky, but I don’t see the plane” acts as a metaphor for her father’s effect on her life and his pure significance in shaping her into who she is today. When I really start to think about these lyrics and McAlpine’s intentions behind them, my admiration for her skyrockets even further. By her word-choice alone she has listeners in a chokehold. There is a childlike innocence adopted throughout the song, calling to playing with the food on her plate and making lines in the sand, memories she clearly carries through with her from her childhood. The song ends with a conversation between McAlpine and her father from her childhood, perhaps the audio from a home video or a voice-recorded message, ending the song on a “goodnight” from her father. Using this at the end of the song truly ripped my heart out from my chest and left it on the floor. It feels like McAlpine uses it to show that her father has now passed, and it is her way to get that last “goodnight” from him.  

Orange show speedway, the records finale, revisits the recollection of past relationships. The song is named after the racetrack in San Bernardino in California where McAlpine fell in love. A more upbeat, indie-pop style track, this song is definitely more of a solo-dance-party tune – one you can scream along to in the shower. The records title, five seconds flat, appears in the second last line of the song in “I’m racing headfirst towards something that could kill me in five seconds flat”, being the only time McAlpine refers to the records title in all fourteen songs. This calls to the records theme in its entirety, overall being a focus on human relationships and how messy, complicated and confusing they can be. In a May 2022 edition of Dork Magazine, McAlpine put this really beautifully, saying that “although love and relationships are so hurtful and hard, we still search for them because they can be so amazing and beautiful if you give them a chance”. Not only is this album a reflection on heartbreak and loss but, as McAlpine puts it, it is also a message in what it means to be human and to have relationships with others; be that romantic, platonic or familial. No matter what we long for in our relationships with others, we will all be left hurt at some point in life; be that from break-ups, death or simply by drifting apart from people we care about. 

(photo from Dork Magazine)

I think that this is one of the many reasons why Lizzy McAlpine is doing so well as an up-and-coming artist. In five seconds flat the theme of human relationships calls to what it means to be human and McAlpine manages to put the effects of relationships – starting or ending – in such a raw and realistic way. No doubt the artist will continue to grow significantly in years to come. I am truly in awe. 

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