words by trevor elkin
Anais Nin wrote “I must be a mermaid… I have no fear of depths, and a great fear of shallow living”. A quote like that resonates with a determination, stronger than life itself, to push the boundary of one’s knowledge and experience. Its message also provides a fearless jumping-off point for Sóley‘s third solo album, ‘Endless Summer’.
Whereas on previous albums, ‘We Sink’ and ‘Ask The Deep’, Sóley explored darker themes of inner battles fought in the figurative desolation of deep waters, she now emerges from those black waves. ‘Endless Summer’ rides a bright spring tide to the safety of shore, bringing with it wisdom and vulnerability. From the opening fairytale music box carousel of ‘Ua’, a song written about her daughter, Sóley exudes a newfound lightness and naivete. Sweeping minor phrases brush gently against major falls, delicate droplets of glockenspiel bounce off stirring accordion and piano, all creating a wonderfully dreamy canopy above. It’s playful and without being childish, engages the child within.
“The idea for the album came pretty randomly one night in beginning of January 2016 when I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote a note to myself: Write about hope and spring”
On ‘Sing Wood To Silence’ and the slow string drone-sunrise of ‘In Between’ it’s clear that watery metaphors, both lyrical and musical, are still present, but this time they are held lightly and in anticipation of a more solid, earthy context, never sinking under the weighty fathoms of cold, deathly oceans. Still haunted though, ‘Never Cry Moon’ reflects on these sadder times, but only briefly before a colourful explosion of trombone, clarinet and cello: “nothing to fight, empty as forests no-one can hear the sound of your tears – stay for a while lead me away from the night. I make you happy…” ‘Grow’ germinates slowly, a hardy green shoot pushing through hoar frost covered bark chips. Its repetitive dreamy piano signals the arrival of spring, growing stronger each day, while starker counter-rhythms occasionally cut across its path, reminding us of the shadow of winters yet to come.
Dreams have been an incredibly important source of inspiration for Sóley, providing a visual frame of reference for the fantastical, sometimes deadly worlds she takes us to. ‘Traveler’ feels, in some ways, like a nod to that other, ether-world where ideas are living, breathing creatures with a will of their own – for good and for evil. Travelling there is not always safe, but “somebody has to go”. Finally, with the album’s title track, ‘Endless Summer’, Sóley soothes this mind’s need to wander, asking: “Did you see the stars?/Did you see the sun come up?/You can find me in the flowers/You can find yourself some peace.” Wide expanses of still, barely rippling waters are conjured by the reverberating and undulating piano motif, with only the tiny clicks and scraping of the keys keeping its reverie anchored in material reality.
‘Endless Summer’ is a masterpiece, not in the sense of perfection or completeness, but in the spirit of integrating life and all its messiness, into music. This is what ultimately lifts it out of the harrowing, murky depths, beautifully rendered as they were, of ‘Ask The Deep’ and up into sun-drenched foaming waves.
‘Endless Summer’ is released on May 5th, via Morr Music