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Amber Coffman’s Solo Debut ‘City of No Reply’ Is More Than a Breakup Album

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This summer, former Dirty Projectors guitarist and vocalist Amber Coffman released her solo debut album “City of No Reply.” Coffman began writing the album in 2011 and continued to work on it after her departure from the Dirty Projectors two years later.

After leaving the band, Coffman went on to make music with artists ranging from Major Lazer to J. Cole, but she wanted to create an album of her own. Ironically, she was finally able to accomplish this with her former bandmate and ex-boyfriend David Longstreth as one of the producers for the album. That said, “City of No Reply” gives listeners a chance to understand her soul and deserves be regarded as more than just a breakup album.

The album opens with the powerful first single “All to Myself,” where Coffman sings that she can not subject herself to intentional isolation and sadness due to the unfortunate events that can occur after a falling out with a loved one. Lyrics like “I just can’t sit around feeling upset/Dwelling on my loneliness … There’s a voice inside of me/And it’s time to listen” did a lot for me when I felt like I had no one to talk to and not a friend in the world. So, just think about all the other people Coffman is reaching to within the songs included on the album.

“City of No Reply” also has plenty of anthems on overcoming and growth. Among them are “Nobody Knows,” “Under the Sun,” “Kindness” and one of my absolute favorites, “Brand New.” In it, Coffman sings about not focusing on the ending of something, but rather the beginning of something else.

Speaking of which, some listeners may think “City of No Reply” is just a breakup album in response to her former bandmate and ex-boyfriend David Longstreth. Longstreth made their split public with songs like “Keep Your Name” on Dirty Projector’s self-titled album released this past February. Coffman had the idea of a debut solo album for years. So, to call “City of No Reply” a breakup album is disregarding Coffman’s ability, and follows a misogynistic idea in the media that a woman’s life revolves around the men she is romantically involved with. 

While there are breakup songs on the album, the concept was not about the deterioration of her relationship with her former band member, but about her growth as an individual. Coffman deserves recognition for the work she has accomplished on her own and for people to review it without mentioning her relations with Longstreth at all, unless they are only recognizing him as one of the album’s producers.

Overall, the mystical production matching perfectly with Coffman’s aura makes “City of No Reply” one of the most solid albums released this year. I also love the cover art, where the sky behind Coffman is changing from darkness to light, conveying album’s theme of overcoming difficult situations and making it to the other side. The closing track “Kindness” captures this perfectly with the ending lyrics: “And may blue feathers fall to you from up above/And may you always know you are loved.” This, followed by audio of the ocean, ends the album on a gentle note, going back to Coffman’s intentions of achieving acceptance and peace with life.

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I am excited to see Coffman’s future work, as “City of No Reply” has left a memorable impact on me. Amber Coffman put herself out there with this album, showing vulnerability — but that makes her seem so much stronger. It takes courage for an artist to reveal their feelings to their audience, and I appreciate the authenticity and raw emotion Coffman fueled into this album.

Melina is a rising senior at DeKalb School of the Arts who enjoys collecting records.

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