In her idiosyncratic debut LP Don’t Take My Dream Away, Los Angeles based musician Lauren Early obsessively strives to make a time-withstanding album that’s listened to from start to finish. “I wanted to make a Last Splash, a Dookie, a Siamese Dream…an album with absolutely no dead weight that takes you on a journey and adds another layer of joy, catharsis, and…vibes to your life,” she says. Embracing ambition during one of the toughest chapters of her life, she pushed herself both musically and lyrically to make something singular and career-defining. The resultant collection is a perfect introduction to Early: The songs are funny but wholeheartedly earnest, relentlessly memorable while refusing to overstay their welcome. After years spent touring in bands like Surf Curse and Girlpool, Early is now establishing herself as an artist in her own right—and one of the most refreshing, charming, and promising new voices in indie rock.
The 13 songs on Don’t Take My Dream Away come from a devastating but transformative period of loss. “A few years ago my entire world basically fell apart. Everything was in sync in the worst way. I had a horrible health scare that made me uncertain of my life itself, and I was simultaneously losing my closest friends at the time, my relationship, my income. It felt like the world ended and then right after that, it actually kind of did (lockdown). I was in the rubble,” Early explains. “It’s very cheesy but in these moments of like…apocalypse of self, music has always been there to save me. It’s such a gift. And making this album was me saving and rebuilding my own life.” She found a kindred spirit in producer and drummer Tabor Allen (Cherry Glazerr), and the two spent months on end tinkering with her songs. “Tabor and I were basically going through the exact same things. We talked more than we worked,” she says. “He’s the ultimate yin to my yang. Very, very, very special and a total genius. He’s also patient where I am not.” The first track she recorded with Allen, “Good Girl Bad Boy,” turned from a sad country song into a pop rave-up. “Because of what was going on in my life, it’s lyrically – at times – a really heavy, dark album,” says Early. “But I’m an extremely optimistic person so there’s as much, if not more, of that too.”
For all the poignant emotional resonance in Early’s songs, Don’t Take My Dream Away is a lot of fun. “I wanted to make the type of album people made in the ‘90s with a million-dollar recording budget, except I had no money. But I did have myself and some incredibly talented people who believed in this.” Mixed by Erin Tonkon (David Bowie, Grace Ives, Sad13) and co-produced by Early and Allen, the album has a distinct and interesting mix of hi-fi and lo-fi. “I was listening to a lot of Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers when I made this album, trying to channel Rick Rubin and experiment with transforming punky indie songs into weird punky pop songs, and then bringing it to people who could adapt it a little bit more,” she recalls. “Twisted” is a great example of Early and Allen working on an idea for months, trying to push and push into a sonically incomparable song. “In The Dog House,” a lone track on the album recorded by Early’s friend Joo Joo Ashworth (Automatic, Sasami, Froth), soars with fuzz and a massive, hair-raising chorus. Elsewhere, tracks like “Burnout,” which was written as an open letter to her younger self, are delicate and cinematic, while “Shy Girl Twenty One” is as claustrophobic and isolated as the one-sided online romance it depicts (“Took a gamble on your love and lost / Everybody replaced me with a dog”).
Don’t Take My Dream Away is an undeniable statement—a testament to the power of speaking up and striking out on your own after years of backing other people up. While Early doesn’t usually take herself too seriously, she absolutely does when making music. On “Tomorrow,” she finds something close to catharsis. It’s her best song yet and one that showcases Early relinquishing control and letting life take her where she needs to be. “Being able to make an album under my own name that I stand by 100 percent has basically been my life’s dream,” she says. “I’ve tried to have a more normal life and I’ve tried to be a more normal person, but I just am so compelled to pursue this with everything I have.”