Review Summary: Weaver at the Loom stitch together a cathartic epic.
In Ancient Greek theater, the concept of catharsis was central to the plot, form and structure of plays; almost literally everything in the play was calculated to evoke a particular emotional response in the audience members. Tragedies such as Oedipus Rex or the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe (best known for its reinterpretation by Shakespeare as Romeo and Juliet
), were crafted such that each audience member would mentally place himself or herself in the shoes of the main character, sharing with the character every cut of the metaphorical blade. These tragedies would pull the audience through extraordinary emotional ups and downs before concluding in a massive finale that, once the curtain went down, left the audience feeling purged of all everyday emotion, cleansed and purified, and able to return to their mundane (by comparison) lives.
The spirit of Greek theater is alive and well in I Was Searching and I Found
, the debut EP of the Minneapolis-based indie-alternative act Weaver at the Loom
. Although both the method of presentation and the subject matter itself have clearly been changed by the course of thousands of years, the concept of catharsis plays just as much of a defining role on I Was Searching
as in Ancient Greek theater, creating a stunning and sublimely beautiful album overflowing with emotion and sincerity.
A concept album based loosely around the emotional and spiritual development of an unnamed main character and the challenges faced in the process, I Was Searching
draws upon a number of universal, archetypal experiences portrayed through the lyrics to draw in the audience. Once the audience is engaged, the band builds layer upon layer of carefully crafted instrumentation to lend even more palpable emotion to the lyrics, rising and falling in a way highly evocative of post-rock. The listener is thus pulled along on a musical and emotional journey, feeling every crescendo and release in a way remarkably similar to the emotional ups and downs employed by the aforementioned Greek playwrights. Finally, as the listener’s emotional journey draws to a close, the band concludes the album with the sublimely beautiful climax of the final track, “Without the Fear of their Return,” a perfect ending that seals the listener’s catharsis, lowering the metaphorical curtain as the last notes fade out.
The lyrics themselves, while somewhat vague at first glance, mask a universality that allow them to apply to almost any listener, thus allowing a vast range of listeners to emotionally “connect” to the lyrics similar to the cathartic techniques used in Greek theater. Through use of archetypal experiences such as battling doubt and cowardice, searching for solace and peace, finding hope, accepting mortality, and finally overcoming one’s fears (each song, respectively), the lyrics guide the listener on a journey through one man’s development, with him simply standing as a proxy for the listener. To achieve this abstraction and universality, lead vocalist and guitarist Dan Smith elegantly weaves (no pun intended, I swear) different levels of metaphors together, as perhaps best demonstrated by the closing lines of “You Can’t Evade Them”: “I said I would sail the roughest of seas to find some peace/ but I'm backing out again/ Because I want my oceans in a spoon, where they're short and shallow/ Something that I can swallow.” Although the band members are Christian and many of the lyrics could be interpreted as dealing with Christian themes, the lyrics are never blatant; they manage to avoid alienating secular listeners through over-specificity, while still creating pieces that to Christian listeners can easily espouse Christian meanings. In this, Weaver at the Loom succeeds where many other “Christian” bands fail; if one is not immediately aware of the band’s personal views, one likely would not guess that they are Christian, yet once it is pointed out, their faith can be seen in everything from the lyrics to their band name. For example, the “love” sung to in the bridge of “You Can’t Evade Them” (“Though outside it's dark and toxic/ I'll try not to be afraid/ ‘Cause the stars burn brightly/ with hope you give, my love”) could just as easily be referring to a significant other as it could God. In this example as in many more throughout the album, the universality and emotional complexity posed by the lyrics is retained such that all may relate.
In many ways, the album’s instrumentation is largely evocative of a more spaced-out, post-rock-influenced version of Transatlanticism
, similar in many regards to its title track. Weaver at the Loom’s sound is a mélange of reverbed, shimmering clean guitar lines, soulful piano, soaring vocal harmonies, and even occasional bursts of tastefully-used strings as a complement. As previously mentioned, theirs is a dynamics-driven sound, building from lush valleys of light, indie-inspired instrumentation to crowning peaks of epic, overblown grandeur a la post-rock’s finest, and returning back again, varying the pattern to fit the emotions embodied in each song’s lyrics and thus avoiding the repetition and predictability that typically plagues post-rock. Recurring leitmotifs such as the simple tom-heavy drum part heard at the end of “Buck Up, They’re Coming” and throughout the verses of “You Can’t Evade Them” draw clear thematic parallels between different elements in the lyrics, adding another layer of meaning to be peeled away by the listener. Smith’s voice is a bright, smooth tenor strongly reminiscent of Matt Davies; his soaring vocals are often joined in harmonies by fellow guitarist and backing vocalist Izaac Burkhart. The intricacies of the vocal harmonies present on this album are truly remarkable and display a level of maturity surprising for a band whose members were barely out of their teens when this was released.
However, the album is not without its faults; if anything, the young quintet can be criticized for drawing too heavily on influences such as Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism
, or Mae’s The Everglow
. Some parts of certain songs bear obvious similarities on the surface, although upon closer examination the similarity is merely superficial in most cases. Another criticism is a slight immaturity that appears from time to time in the lyrics; some lines feel somewhat forced or contrived. However, even these criticisms cannot dampen the album’s appeal; simply put, these minor flaws are easily attributed to the band’s age and lack of experience, and do not interfere with the emotional experience of the album.
In all, I Was Searching and I Found
is a stellar and emotionally powerful debut album. It elegantly balances delicacy with power, specificity with universality, and artistic integrity with popular appeal to create a truly exceptional work of art. By capitalizing upon one of the longest-standing traditions of human expression, I Was Searching and I Found
’s brilliant use of catharsis to manipulate the audience’s emotions sets it apart from the cadre of similar bands, allowing them to transcend their influences and create something unique. Weaving (okay, pun intended this time) together many disparate strands of the modern alternative, post-rock and indie movements, Weaver at the Loom
have carved out their own niche, and hold vast promise and potential to expand upon this in future releases.
“Oh, I got what I wanted,
And I'll be afraid no more/
Cause I have finally found my bravery”