Though it might sound different throughout the years, emo is still alive and well. It may not be as prevalent as it once was, when My Chemical Romance and The Used were kings, but you don't have to look far to find it. Case in point: the Bloomington, Indiana-based Whale Bones. In 2018, they released a solid rock album called Island Fire that made the listener feel all the feelings (listen to "Backyard," if you want to try it out). Now they're back to do it again, but this time, they're holding nothing back.
Whale Bones' 2020 release is a six-song EP called Close All The Blinds, Lock All The Doors, Say No One's Home, and it hits hard. The distorted electric guitars and drums may be gone, but they're replaced by the most personal and vulnerable lyrics Nathan Kane has probably ever written. From feelings of inadequacy, to experiencing religious abuse, to losing loved ones, an attentive and in-depth listen will leave the listener feeling awestruck, emotional, and maybe even understood. Even the title of the EP invokes images of anxiety and depression. The opening lines of the opening track, "Persona Non Grata," let the listener in on what this ride is going to be like: "Push me out again / I'm unworthy of your time / it's inconvenient for you / there's no benefit / no addition for your gain / so I'm inadequate." These lyrics are sung over a beautiful, melancholy acoustic guitar melody that helps drive home the feeling of despair. When the orchestral music comes in, it adds a whole new layer that only amplifies the feeling.
"Cult Leader" deals with religious abuse, which is something that both former and recovering Christians have been very vocal about lately. Kane's experience is laid bare here, along with the mental and spiritual state it's left him in. The lyrics anonymously call out the perpetrator's actions, but aren't bitter or hateful in doing so. It's followed by what's sure to be a fan favorite, "Wilt." It keeps in line with Kane's mental state, but deals more with his self-proclaimed inability to let people in and let himself be loved: "When I withdrew, your comfort grew / so surely I must be the fool / if love's a feeling I can prove / then why can't I give that to you?" The somber piano leads brilliantly into my personal favorite track, "Threnody," which actually transitions into the lightest and prettiest music on the whole EP. The music box-like notes play over the rhythmic sounds of a hospital monitor and, quite honestly, is breathtaking. The lyrics exist in just two short verses: "All I've held, the weight and suffering / and all the pain I felt withdrew from me / all I've been, restored through my defeat / no grief in my farewell / it's all relief." The lyrics are few, leaving the music and sounds to paint the picture. The listener's worldview will certainly affect the interpretation of the song, but as a Christian, I find peace in knowing that, when I die, I'll be through with all the pain and suffering of this world.
At first listen, this EP was strange to listen to, because it sounds nothing at all like what I expected it to sound like. But with each new listen and a closer examination of the lyrics and the heart behind the songs, my expectations quickly took a backseat to what was being presented. Close All The Blinds, Lock All The Doors, Say No One's Home is a heart-wrenching, brutally beautiful, and extremely personal album, as well as an early contender for album of the year. And while this album is very enjoyable at surface level as well, you'd be doing yourself a disservice to stop there. Take a deep dive into Whale Bones' latest offering and you won't regret it.- Review date: 3/10/20, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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