Sometimes the most profound new beginnings are only made possible by an equally impactful ending. Maybe Next Time, the debut full-length from Allie—the mononymous creative moniker of Nashville-based singer/songwriter Allie Cuva (they/them)—exists at such an intersection. Born out of intense personal upheaval, it’s an album of sonically ambitious yet deeply intimate indie rock that unflinchingly explores both the necessity of change and its challenges. And in the process, Maybe Next Time paints a vibrant portrait of an artist truly coming into their own.
After spending time in various musical projects around Nashville, Cuva was recruited as the touring/session drummer for Cavetown—an experience that would prove pivotal. They returned from a lengthy run of shows feeling inspired, restless, and more certain than ever that they had something to express. “I got home and felt very removed and strange, and music was a way to start trying to make sense of it,” Cuva explains. That desire fueled the writing of Allie’s debut EP, 2020’s Junior Coder’s Experiment, and its release began to reveal a path not just to catharsis, but also to self-discovery. “Putting the EP out under the Allie moniker ended up really illuminating some of the more subconscious feelings I was having about myself and my gender,” Cuva says. “I realized I’d always been trying to get a fuller sense of the picture, but the art really helped me touch on things that I was about to confront in a much more direct way. I started doing research, and seriously considering hormone replacement therapy and identifying as transgender and nonbinary.”
Cuva describes this decision as a choice to begin a lifelong journey, but it would start with the closing of a different chapter. “My longtime partner and I were no longer compatible,” Cuva says. “We didn’t want to separate—it wasn’t a matter of lack of love—but we realized that was the right thing for us as individuals.” The end of the relationship led Cuva to throw themself into writing, and the songs on Maybe Next Time began to take shape. The breakup album is a longstanding musical framework and while feelings of heartbreak and longing are about as universal as anything can be, Maybe Next Time takes an approach informed by Cuva’s unique perspective. The album documents not only the dissolution of a romantic partnership between two people, but also Cuva separating themself from the parts of a past identity that no longer fit. “The intensity of the symptoms of gender dysphoria, just feeling so in conflict with my body, my pronouns, how I presented to the world, it all felt really inauthentic and it was troubling because I didn’t know how to move forward,” Cuva says. “It’s a breakup record about people who didn’t want to break up. We’re still really close, she’s so supportive, and I tried to be mindful of that and honor the relationship with the record.”
Cuva recorded Maybe Next Time primarily in the spare bedroom of their home with the assistance of their brother, Jacob, and while they jokingly refer to it as a “guest bedroom pop” record, the album is far from lo-fi. Maybe Next Time’s dynamic sound ranges from sprawling, widescreen rock to dreamy, intimate indie folk—often within the same song—with Cuva’s warm, evocative voice and knack for melody bringing it all together. Opening track “Face” builds on sturdy drums and a propulsive bassline before crescendoing into a layered refrain that introduces many of the album’s core themes. “I wanted it to start the record because it’s about my identity, which was the catalyst for everything. It’s about reckoning with the way hormone replacement therapy physically changes your body and recognizing that I’m gonna be so different from how I was.” Songs like “ETYG” or “Name” navigate this idea of becoming someone new while grappling with your past self; the former through its atmospheric verses and soaring, falsetto-led chorus, and the latter a powerful, reverb-laden waltz. “Everything is so internal but then the scariest part is making it external,” Cuva says. “It’s a lot of ongoing conversations, but it’s a life-affirming choice, it’s something you do to be part of the world on your own terms. It’s a way to stay alive.”
Elsewhere, tracks like the bouncing guitar pop of “Destroyer” or the towering alt rock of “Ghost” mourn the ending of Cuva’s romantic partnership and the shared life that could no longer exist in the same capacity. And while sadness is certainly a part of Maybe Next Time, the album is not content to stay in that space forever. It’s a record about actively seeking a better understanding of yourself in order to find acceptance and to do right by yourself and the people you care about most—as evidenced by the hopeful “The Present Is Sorting Out.” “It’s a bit of a compass,” Cuva says. “An intuition that there’s only so much you can control, and sometimes you have to be less resistant to those currents to find some peace. Failures to be your best self can have negative implications for the people around you.”
Maybe Next Time comes to a close with “Ice Cream Song,” which interpolates the instantly recognizable tune of an ice cream truck into a swaying, wistful epilogue about the basic human need to connect— complete with a guest chorus of friends. “It’s sort of an existential thing,” Cuva says. “What fills the void or keeps us from nihilism? Love is what made this all possible. This whole experience kind of broke me, but then it helped me rebuild into who I was meant to be.”