Review Summary: ...in echoes.
Halfway between abject dreariness and flashing lights, this record collapses. It’s a wishlist that covers bases indiscriminately, reaching out for comfort amongst the noise; the kind of album that suffers through parties where any and all conversation is drowned out by the onslaught of billboard-type remixes. But Communicating
, retreating into itself, is also a patient piece of work: Prison Guard
is an afternoon stroll with nary a destination in mind, as the sky pulls a quilt of grey cloud over itself, while At Home & In My Head
withholds its scintillating groove long enough for us to actively begin searching for it ourselves.
By way of a deliberate contrast, there are moments here that pivot around a lyric that cuts right to the heart of its melancholic source. ”Come home to me”
is one of those stunningly direct lines, marking a midpoint between vocalist Nicole Miglis and the listener, as if she speaks for each and every soul steeped in sorrow. It’s odd that -- for a voice so reserved, so purposefully distant -- Miglis emerges as one to ask questions that somehow triumph over the thick, billowing haze that Hundred Waters conjure. In Communicating
, the titular refrain (”are we communicating"”
) passes through stages that make it feel more like an ultimatum than a passing remark: it expects an answer at first, then seems to resolve itself before it’s layered underneath ”it’s so complicating”
, and the two phrases become one, Miglis capitulating to the irreparable void between her and her muse.
That little run, consisting of the title-track and Blanket Me
, is perfect. It’s powerful enough to render the rest of this fantastic little album irrelevant. At one point earlier today, I told one of our very own, Blush, that it could well be the “accompaniment to a life-affirming moment one day”, and I stand by that, adamantly so. Blanket Me’s
steady build -- that slow gallop -- leans against the lilt of the piano, before moving into its own with the assurance of a moment that knows it has the last forty minutes of material to support its ascent. It’s a soundtrack for the slow-motion, climactic montage from every indie film you’ve ever seen, but it sidesteps notions of mawkishness, touching on vulnerabilities that would normally stay hidden. As the track determinedly marches forward, Miglis repeats the eponymous phrase until she is numb to its purpose. And we end up the same; the lyric begins to feel like her last words, eventuating like the whisper of the ocean in a seashell. If you’ve ever called out for someone who has their back irrevocably turned, this song is Miglis’ gift to you: it’s an intimate moment dressed up in an epic climax, a tectonic shift in perspective occurring mid-song.
It feels pertinent to discuss these two tracks on their own because, well, they’re breathtaking, but also because they represent the point in a relationship where tensions puncture the veneer of good will and amicability. The rest of the album is lovely, but it feels like it exists just so that these songs can land with the weight of such a rich history. This small section of the record is also what will keep me returning to Communicating
: to take the journey with Miglis to that point, to relive the scenes that led us to the end. But it’s not because I derive some sort of sadistic pleasure from the experience, it’s because Hundred Waters -- as a band, as a group of people
-- evoke the importance of forming bonds strong enough to cope with the consequences. If nothing else, they’ve communicated that much.