If you don’t have a lot of time and you just want the short and sweet version of this review, know that All That Must Be is a sonically brilliant album of great emotional breadth that follows George FitzGerald through big life changes. This album is short, sweet, and addictive. Here are the links to stream or download it.
For my part, I believe the best records are the ones about personal transformation, which carry a narrative through times of great changes, for better or worse. All That Must Be is one such record, tracking the changes to GF’s personal life as he abruptly left Berlin to relocate back to his native London and his adjustment to life as a father.
My formative years spanned much of the 90’s, especially in terms of music, with whole new worlds opening up to me with the discovery of the Chemical Brothers, Orbital, and Underworld. Eventually I found Everything But the Girl shortly before the release of their masterful and final album, Temperamental. I saturated myself in that record for a year and any time one of those songs come on, I feel that same sense of sadness and longing that I did in that year.
When you spend enough time with a piece of music, it becomes a part of you in a way, a part of your experience and inextricably tied to the memories you made while saturated in it. Strangely, when I’m sad, it is sad music that calls to me most, but I’m also drawn to the opposite. Sometimes you want harmony to make yourself feel not quite so alone, but at other times you seek out discord instead, something to interrupt what is inside of you, to get you out of a rut.
It seems as though the process of creating music is similar to listening to it, as the trip through All That Must Be fluctuates between somber and soft moments to more jagged and complex parts as FitzGerald no doubt encounters the obstacles of abrupt life changes and as he reconciles himself with this new life.
“I wanted to mirror the uncanniness you feel when a massive event happens in your life”, explains FitzGerald, “Everything looks and sounds the same but it’s somehow different. Your surroundings are less intelligible.”
On Sirens,’ you get the sense of reeling that you feel when your life feels as though it’s spiraled out of your control and that you aren’t quite sure where everything is going to land. Similarly (and literally) with ‘Burn,’ it feels as though you’re waiting out the chaos of a storm, just holding on for dear life.
I’ve said it before, but I don’t mind saying it again: ‘Burn’ is a perfect song. If the song was a pair of jeans, I’d have worn them the fuck out since its release in October of last year. So many other songs wear out fairly quickly, but this one still draws me in with the intoxicating interplay between the vocal samples, the cycling synths, and the percussion. I’m drawn in and held in this incredibly vulnerable place for the duration of the song, which I don’t mind because it feels like he’s right there with me.
There is a sonic shift underpinning much of the album as well, an indication of FitzGerald’s decision to include more musicians recording in the studio with him, and he’s reconfigured his live setup as well to include another pair of performers on stage. He’s cited that he’s based his new music around the piano and built the songs out from there. Whatever he’s done, it’s working and really, really well.
The context is also more literal in his collaboration with Lil Silva on ‘Roll Back,’ where he finds himself looking back, pining for a do-over. It’s easy in the aftermath of change, in the quiet moments like when you’re trying to fall asleep, to see every point where you could have done things differently, made better decisions, or paid more attention.
Similarly in his collaboration with Tracey Thorn, ‘Half-Life,’ which feels like a kind of spiritual cousin/spin-off of what might have happened after things in ‘Protection’ went south and very much the crown jewel of the album. It speaks directly to the conflict in the changing person, seemingly from both their perspective as well as the second person in their life, emoting how it feels to deal with somebody whose mind is always elsewhere. In the song, there is a small feat of acceptance of the situation and of responsibility. A small, but important amount of footing is regained as FitzGerald shifts to facing his uncertain future. The song also unearths Thorn’s serene vocals for a lot of people who may not know about her, which is a huge win for them (see Protection). There are few vocalists as well suited to accompany electronic music from such a vulnerable and open place in terms of lyrics.
By the end of the ten songs of All That Must Be, it feels as though FitzGerald regains his footing, that he finds closure with his old life and a new sense of purpose in his new one.
Throughout the record, I hear pieces of Everything But the Girl’s Temperamental, of Bowie’s Low, the bright, yet morose lines of Bonobo, the atmospherics of Brian Eno, and surviving, if partial fingerprints of old George FitzGerald, all combining into a sincere, heartfelt body of work.
Where should you listen to All That Must Be? In short: everywhere. It’s great for driving, for walking around the city blasting on headphones, for dancing in dark rooms, and for waxing nostalgic.