Review Summary: Love is mostly warAt Weddings
has that feeling of devastating, unrequited love. It’s looking at the man or woman of your dreams and knowing it will just never work out. “I don't know how to talk, when you're looking that way”, Sarah Beth Tomberlin forlornly wails, before being met with regret – “And I never found another like you”, on the pristine acoustic opener ‘Any Other Way.’ It establishes an immediate tone. At Weddings
is going to be shattered, desperate. It’s going to be like showing up to the dance only to see that he/she is way off in the corner, gently swaying with someone else. Yeah, it’s going to break your heart.
The fact that Tomberlin wastes no time cutting to the chase is part of the album’s charm. Just as quickly as it begins, the record fades into ‘Untitled 1’, a prolonged series of ambient acoustic strums that are all too easy to get lost in. The album is full of such moments that elevate it above your typical singer-songwriter exercise. There’s the irony of ‘Tornado’, which is possibly the most delicate track – propped up only by icy chimes and Sarah’s earnest wails. ‘You Are Here’ feels like fluttering heartbeats, sliding into an effortless acoustic/drum groove that very subtly increases in tempo until the end of the track, and suddenly you’re racing towards that smile, those eyes, heart pounding. There’s no denying her innocence when she sings, “Cause you are here and I am here , and you are all I want.”
The atmosphere of At Weddings
doesn’t change much. It echoes off the walls of its chamber, like an acoustic snow globe. It doesn’t matter though. Tomberlin’s vulnerability is the glue that holds this whole experiment together, espousing cascading acoustic guitars with real heartache, the kind that feels magnified with a cup of coffee on a rainy day. “You never learned to smile when you’re saying nothing’s wrong / I know you’re lying to me, let me break down the wall” feels like a monumental line on ‘A Video Game’, and it’s as if she’s summing up At Weddings
in one verse. The album is a series of grayscale, still frame photos. These little memories all recounting how and when it went wrong, that when patched together form the fabric of a relationship.
By the closer ‘February’, all these painful memories are finally unveiled for what they are. “Someone I almost married, is doing that this month”, Tomberlin self-harmonizes, “I’m ignoring my reading and living like a ghost.” It’s a crystallizing moment for At Weddings
– from the lyrics and gloomy aura right down to the title itself. It lends credence to earlier lines, like “I just don't trust people who like me.” At Weddings
tells an entire story – from the beginning of the downward slope of the relationship to its inevitable end, and then dwells helplessly and hopelessly in the aftermath of the breakup. She hits rock bottom when she sings, almost as if her soul is fading, “And I crumble with each memory…” on ‘Untitled 2.’
Still, Tomberlin finds strength. For as crushed and traumatized as she is across the album, she always manages to dust herself off with a line like “to be a woman is to be in pain” or “love is mostly war.” She’s at her most triumphant on ‘Seventeen’, when she sings, “You always say that I look so tough…But it’s because I’m tough.” As if writing an album like this wasn’t proof enough. Sarah Beth dredges up her lowest moments, forcing her to painfully relive the highs. It’s an album utterly relatable because love, and heartbreak, are universal. It’s also something so amazingly personal that no one could precisely duplicate it, because every experience is specific to Tomberlin’s journey. That’s At Weddings
: passion, devastation, depression , and strength rolled into one. It’s tenacious, and it’s beautiful.