Review Summary: Miracles happen.
Melancholy. It's an emotion surprisingly many musicians attempt to convey, and one surprisingly little have success with. It's a constantly enigmatic emotion, one that swiftly evades attempts to explain it or convert it into some artistic form. Attempts to do so often come off as contrived or sentimental, dooming themselves to aesthetic humiliation. However, when done correctly, melancholy can be a shockingly deep theme for any genre of music. Many of my favorite albums happen to be melancholy in nature: Blue
, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
, and Blue Train
are just some examples. Well, you can add dream-pop group Devics' 2001 effort My Beautiful Sinking Ship
to that list. Sadly flying under the indie-pop radar, the album is a near-flawless piece of late-night mood music that hits emotionally in all the right places.
Stunning opener “Heart and Hands,” with its tinkling piano melody and fragile vocals (provided by Sara Lov), shows exactly what Devics are all about
: the piece puts in an impeccably precise amount of forlornness, tugging at the heartstrings while gradually building into an immaculate piece of piano pop. The song's chiming pianos keep you company until the heartbreakingly desperate finale, showing off Lov's beautiful vocals and flaunting admirably headstrong lyrics (“No, I'm not starving / Not for no one”). The song then, for the most part, ends how it started, but finishes on a chillingly dissonant piano chord.
My Beautiful Sinking Ship
isn't a one-trick pony, however: the album effortlessly switches between many themes, including Lov lamenting how a lover “should be here with her” (“You in the Glass”) or telling him to “stretch the night out” (“Forget Tomorrow”). The album also touches on themes brought on by Sara Lov's kidnapping by her own father, such as on “Gold in the Girl,” which finds her cooing lyrics like “So you know all about my dad / And the ***ed up life we had,” or the lovely “I Broke Up,” with the characteristically hopeless lyric, “I never knew those family fights would be replaced by lonely nights.”
However, it isn't all Lov's show: instrumentalist Dustin O'Halloran takes front stage on some tracks, singing on “Living Behind the Sun” and the geniunely chilling interlude “Lost at Sea”. Throughout the album, the influence of O'Halloran's soundwebs make themselves known: the lovely piano of “Heart and Hands,” “Forget Tomorrow,” and “Heaven Please” all belong to him, and to guess that the lovely dream-pop of “I Broke Up” can be attributed to him would not be a wild guess either.
Though the beginning sequence of three songs are all indie-pop classics, towards the end of the album is where the magic happens. Starting with “Forget Tomorrow,” which spirals into an illuminating orchestral climax, Devics save their real musical and emotional ammunition for last. “Gold in the Girl” almost feels like straight-up rock when compared to piano-driven songs like “Heart and Hands,” and is all the more refreshing for it. “I Broke Up” is simply one of the best songs to have ever graced the dream-pop genre, letting a lulling guitar wander with Lov's wistful cooings, to astronomical, if subtle, success. “Heaven Please,” featuring similar piano to “Forget Tomorrow,” is another heartbreaking and desperate song. Almost minimalist in instrumentation, it only features O'Halloran's piano and Lov's voice, but never feels empty. And while the disappointing “Blood Red Orange” is the technical end to the album, O'Halloran/Lov duet “Five Seconds to Hold You” is so resplendent that I don't care, and neither will you.
There aren't many albums you can geniunely return to over and over without the songs or atmosphere growing stale, but My Beautiful Sinking Ship
is one of them. O'Halloran and Lov were a musical match made in heaven, weaving songs that are brilliant at conveying one thing: melancholy. The album feels like the soundtrack to a neglected lover's life, flawlessly illustrating the pains of being constantly rejected by life and its inhabitants, but still seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. My Beautiful Sinking Ship
is probably an album that is found by some sort of happy accident, but it's such a magical album that it feels like fate anyway.