Like the version of solitaire after which it is named, Lina Tullgren's Free Cell is characterized by solvable puzzles and moving from disarray into organization. The New England native used FreeCell almost as a sort of meditation while touring in support of their 2017 debut and found a kind of solace and clarity in the game's processes. Writing songs alone while staying at their parents' house between tours, Tullgren willingly engaged with their sense of isolation and alienation, finding something new within themselves as the material developed. Unlike their debut, Won, Free Cell was made largely without longtime collaborator and bandmate Ty Ueda, who was injured in a car accident just prior to recording. Shouldering the responsibility of arrangements and production on their own, Tullgren emerges here with a newfound confidence that seems to unfold across these 12 elegantly introspective songs. Moving away from the murky lo-fi indie rock of their earlier work, they opt for something more dynamic and intricate, adding winsome strings and robust brass arrangements atop a clearer overall mix. The lush, synth-thickened "Golden Babyland" boasts a curiously rickety new wave groove, its tension cut one song later by the sweet melancholia of the chamber pop gem "Bad at Parties," as Tullgren analyzes their social struggles. It's a theme they cover throughout the set -- that unyielding search for where they fit in -- and is approached with an underlying sense of kindness, especially on the gently meandering "Saiddone" and the lovely pair "Soft Glove 1" and "Soft Glove 2." Artistically, Tullgren shows a remarkable amount of growth between releases, making for a sophomore gem.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger