Review Summary: Oh sleeper awake.
The first letter sent was one of familiarity. A call back to days of old. Swirling, wordless refrain emanates from the pages pulled straight from a musty journal concealed within a bent frame; the sheets are dog-eared and well-read. This prelude to Dear Wormwood
pays homage to recollection with a jovial sense of maturity. Our protagonist is older now. The tale of love and learning presented in The Oh Hellos’ previous venture, Through the Deep, Dark Valley
, is treated with utmost care during the 13 letters that make up this journey, even if the tangibility of a weighty discomfort continues to stir and writhe as the story unfolds.
”I know who you are now.”
Confident as affirmations such as these sprinkled throughout the narrative might seem on the surface, no density of polyphony could ever mask the grief. There is no duplicity here. If anything, the juxtaposition of instrumental wanderlust and a sorrow-laden lyrical recounting are just more indicators of just how attached Dear Wormwood
is to its predecessor. When “This Will End” opens with ”No, I am not afraid to die"
, the naive acoustic refrain beneath a nonchalant vocal delivery can do little to lift spirits. And while the explosion of wordless extol towards the center of the track is no less spectacular than any similar events on Through the Deep, Dark Valley
, the response is pained rather than awe-inspiring. It is a gorgeous euphony of strings, of rustic banjos, of hopeful roars, and it is almost enough to pull the bitter from the bittersweet.
Even through a romantic medium, the ecclesiastical overtones manage to be just as ubiquitous as they are concealed. The village waltz “Soldier, Poet, King” spends just as much time building up a dichotomous godhead as it does tearing it down with a pulsating and vibrant folk attitude. ”He will slay you with his tongue, o lei o lai o lord.”
A song as joyous in tone as this is the unlikely candidate of such devout diction and yet the contrast manages to only further promote the anecdotal nature of the album. Our narrator is wise, though not so wise as to completely escape the rose-tinted lens of hindsight.
It’s almost impossibly difficult to describe intimacy without heartache. What might be a more impressive feat, however, would be to lean upon sorrow as a foundation without compromising the clear ideal that it is all worth it in the end. Maybe it is an unwavering dedication to honesty as our protagonist cries out ”I know I shouldn’t love you but I do.”
Maybe it is the understanding that wisdom is formed through trial. And maybe it is just willingness to let all things unfold. By whatever means necessary, Dear Wormwood
makes its accounts of woe and isolation both assuredly empathetic and protective. And while sedulous execution might nullify a crestfallen notion that the past shan’t be altered, there is much beauty to be seen in the value of venerable contentment.
So lift your voice with timbrel and lyre
“We will abide, we will abide, we will abide”