Review Summary: Life is a waving feather.The voice of the last cricket
across the first frost
is one kind of good-by.
It is so thin a splinter of singing.
Winter is regarded in many belief systems and mythologies as a time of rebirth and a period of great change. It is a kind of twilight between worlds, a purgatory of light and darkness, where there is hardly as much chiaro
as there is scuro
. As things begin to die off and the surviving rest in tandem, cold, unforgiving nights are exchanged for short, blinding days in expectation of the spring to come. On 2001’s Then Comes the Sun
, Italian singer-songwriter Elisa Toffoli describes not winter, spring, nor summer— but the autumn of a person’s life, fluidly coalescing and weaving together ecstatic highs, dissonant lows, and often, astounding reflections on what it means to have a zest for living. In an interview for Corriere della Sera
, one of Italy’s oldest newspapers, she recalls the album speaking of “…states of mind, abandonment, of love, and of friendship.” Just as the changes of seasons are steadily used as references for a person’s life experience, Then Comes the Sun
is a rich, sonic pastiche of the individual’s journey through life within one self-contained narrative, written exclusively from an autumnal view of the world.
There are three recurring lyrical elements on this album. The first deals with memory, namely a nostalgia for lost innocence, then, a personal connection with the world described from such a perspective, and the last and most frequent— that life is cyclical and changes happen slowly, with time, but only if a person is willing to make them. Elisa herself has stated that the reason she debuted with and continued to write most of her songs in English was because of a continual effort to protect, understand, and internalize the art of her personal world from the ears of her native Italy. In effect, the imagery she uses resembles that of childlike hope, but is always expressed in much more discreet means. On track one, Rainbow
, eternity is about awakenings accompanied by morning rain, renewal, and affirmations that “…it never began for us…” using a rather patient progression of synths, guitars, and hymnlike background vocals that fill the borders of the soundscape, where gorgeous swells of cymbals precede each chorus and delay is used in a hauntingly effective manner.
Track two, Heaven Out of Hell
, implores the listener to consider the consequences of living a life of emotional inhibition and complacence. Speaking explicitly of hope, this is the most accessible and organic pop song on the record, and acts as an understatement for the tenacity required for surviving the looming winter mused about on this record that is simultaneously nowhere to be found. Drawing influences from Björk, U2, Jim Morrison, Aretha Franklin, and numerous folk, blues, and funk artists of the mid-twentieth century, Elisa’s sound on this album is not clear-cut or consistently in one place, apart from the versatility and the character of her voice as an instrument, capable of ornate mezzo-piano trills one moment, gracefully traversing into warm, round, full belts followed by split-second riffs the next. Thematically, Then Comes the Sun
at times can resemble the bittersweet harshness and interconnectedness of the human experience from 1994’s Under the Pink
by Tori Amos, as well as The Division Bell
by Pink Floyd, where the former is saccharine by comparison to David Gilmour’s near-perfect balance between bitter and sweet, although often in more elegiac terms.
Perhaps the most beautiful feature of this album is the method in which it retains and demonstrates a sense of true cyclicality. Each track works as though it were part of an implicit running narrative, from the genesis of Rainbow
, to the frenetic discontent found in track four, Fever
, which succeeds and provides a dissonant and almost offensive contradiction to the ecstasy of Dancing
. Track seven, Time
is successful in not only providing the listener with an aural respite from the emotional intensity of the sextet that precedes it, but also acts as a physical passaggio
for the album’s content, guiding the listener towards the wistful second half. Fairy Girl
and The Window
speak to a dreamlike yearning for the past, until a sense of resolution and release that seem to sprout from Rock Your Soul
tie together the sensation of both fearing and accepting change that forms the core of this album. The final seconds of Rock Your Soul
seamlessly blend into the final, culminating triad of songs by alliterating the titular motif of the album, the sun
, with Phrygian-D harmonies that open It Is What It Is
, hearkening to someone wandering in the Sahara desert, as thirsty for answers as they are willing to wander endlessly.
The closing, hidden track Rainbow Bells
brings the revolution of the album to a final stop. Stripping the thickest drops of synths, guitars, and percussion from the first two minutes of the composition until crescendoing and restoring these omissions during the second chorus, the second verse’s observation that “…something else is just ‘round the corner” adds additional meaning and significance to the lyrics of the first track. This production choice causes the material to transcend the music through which it is channeled, as well as create a sense of spiritual cadence that serves to carefully wrap the contents that precede it— the most sensitive and intimate parts of the human experience.
Recommended tracks: Rainbow, Heaven Out of Hell, Dancing