Of all the astrological signs, Geminis get an unfair rep for flightiness. Richmond artist Ali Thibodeau, better known as Deau Eyes, is a proud double Gemini; she’s also living proof that the stereotypes are wrong. Rather than being flaky, air signs like her possess an openness and flexibility, ready to take on whatever the world throws at them. “For a while there before the pandemic, I had my passport in my purse at all times just in case something came up and I was able to leave,” she says. Over these last few years, though, Thibodeau’s innate taste for adventure evolved from a propensity to pick up her things and take off (her debut LP was literally called Let It Leave), to a desire to stay in one place and tend her garden.
Deau Eyes’ forthcoming sophomore album Legacies — a sprawling, majestic exploration of what it means to “leave things behind that have integrity and meaning” — began when one of her exes called her up, asking if she wanted to go to Moscow with him in a couple of years and hop on a train to Beijing. Part of her loved the idea, but an older, wiser part knew that wasn’t her anymore.
“There’s this whole thing with investing in yourself and moving forward with yourself and what you’ve built that you can’t just pick up in two years out of the blue when this guy calls and says, ‘Hey, I’m going to Moscow,’ ” Thibodeau explains.
She turned this personal inflection point into “Moscow in the Spring,” a dreamy pop number haloed in the hazy glow of starry synths and tinkling sleigh bells. Thibodeau wanted the song to sound like “an Icelandic airport… like you’re in a waiting room and you’re going somewhere really exciting.”
Thibodeau’s newfound focus on what we’ve made, and what we’ll leave behind, forms the basis of Legacies. For obvious, pandemic-related reasons, she wrote the record with a mindset that she describes (with a laugh) as “existential crisis vibes across the board."
Recorded between her closet and the respective studios of co-producers Scott Lane and DJ Harrison, Legacies came together with more intention than the flash-bang intensity of Let It Leave, which was taped in a matter of days with longtime friends Jacob Blizard and Collin Pastore (known for their work with Lucy Dacus, illuminati hotties, and Julien Baker). Over the course of four months, Thibodeau spent her days waitressing, then would rush over to Lane’s studio to craft the sounds of Legacies deep into the night.
Legacies is an undeniably cinematic record, informed by her love of artists from Brandi Carlile to Emily King to Fiona Apple. The introductory track “Someday I” features Thibodeau’s voice in the forefront, fuzzy and lo-fi, as if you’ve accidentally tuned a radio to some secret station. She sings a haunting theme that’s woven throughout the record, threaded through the expansive “Like The Legends All Have Spoken Of” and the closing title track.
Much of the record is autobiographical, but Thibodeau always has an eye on the bigger picture at hand. “When” melds indie rock and bluesy guitar as she ruminates on “our habits like machinery running our existence into oblivion.” For a song about the environmental destruction wreaked by overconsumption, “When” is a whole lot of fun, with Thibodeau channeling her inner Sheryl Crow.
“Haven’t You Had Quite Enough” walks the same tightrope of hip-swinging attitude and tough-talk lessons, specifically looking America squarely in the eye and calling out our country’s sins: “Don’t you see the kids kept in their cages / hard to breathe under those foil blankets.”
“It’s like having a belligerently drunk friend mansplaining something and just being like, ‘Bro, you can stop now. No one’s listening to you anymore. You’re done,’ ” Thibodeau says of the song's bravado.
Compared to the urgent rock of Let It Leave, Thibodeau shows off even more sonic textures and genre-blending over the course of Legacies. She serves up bedroom-eyes R&B on “Make Some Time,” grooving along to Lane’s funky guitar and languorously singing, “So make some time for me / that’s all I’m asking you.” “Like the Legends All Have Spoken Of” is comparatively ominous, swirling with heady instrumentation and grand notions of a love worthy of all those epic love songs. “And I want a love / like the legends all have spoken of,” Thibodeau implores over pulsating synth. Her echoing voice and reverberating guitar carve out a sweeping aural landscape, conjuring up striking images of Thibodeau on the edge of a cliff, or in an abandoned city, alone but still determined to find human connection.
“Let’s Call It Safer Love” evokes Loner-era Caroline Rose, buoyed by crunchy guitar and a carefree, almost beachy sound. Thibodeau makes the song deceptively serene, as “Let’s Call It Safer Love” focuses on her real-life experience of falling back into a pattern of “toxic yet intoxicating love.”
A fleeting fling with a fuckboy inspired “Another One Comes Around,” which picks up the pace with raucous, boot-stomping Americana. Thibodeau playfully tells a story about discovering a man was two-timing her. She met his other love interest at a pool party where they were both “lathered up in your favorite scent” (the pair became fast friends, of course). The song is written like she’s the heroine of a Loretta Lynn or Emmylou Harris song, steeped in righteous anger, but always with a wink.
Broadening her vision once more, Thibodeau considers “ENDS” her “true love song for the apocalypse.” The stripped-back arrangement — just her and spare guitar — reflects the song’s sentiment that, at the end of the world, everything else will fall away and only our shared humanity matters. “And if you’re there at the end of the road / we’re kindred souls / breath, blood, and bone,” she tells her companion, whoever they may be.
Fittingly, the album's arc concludes with “Legacies,” a bittersweet track about “dying to live for something that’s bigger than you, dying to have this massive love of your life and creating that on your own, with or without a person.” Once again Thibodeau and Lane tap into their cinematic sensibilities, with soaring synth and triumphant keys making moments feel spacious. She imagines herself creating her own “personal love bot” to keep her company, a Wilson from Castaway made of gold.
In some ways, Legacies is about the triumph of the human desire for connection. Deau Eyes finds the pain but, more importantly, the beauty in “having this last, dying love, but not having it at all.”