Ruston Kelly
Halloween


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
August 4th, 2020 | 97 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: When all of your ghosts get too heavy to hold

It’s the gut-wrenching, soul-sinking moments in life that see us reaching out for empathy in the form of music. There’s something about a broken heart that compels us to look for that sort of companionship; as misery loves company, we seek something to mirror our pain rather than to lift us up. Halloween speaks this language fluently, detailing a bittersweet breakup that channels the warmest memories of Ruston Kelly’s former relationship – a kind of poison, as it becomes, in the post-relational phase. By inviting these intimate moments into the studio, Kelly elevates Halloween above the likes of a “breakup album” – and while it certainly is exactly that, the album’s devotion to and wholehearted belief in love of the purest form endears itself to the hopeless romantic in us all. When Kelly sings on the penultimate ‘Poison’ that “Even now that I'm a stranger in your eyes, that's not what tears me down / It's how you made my worst of days never seem as grey, it's remembering your mouth and the way it tastes, it's rosemary beach on a sunny day…Yeah that's my poison now” – he’s not just condemning the past and flooding it with regret. He’s acknowledging the sincere connections made, and surmising that it hurts so much because at one time it felt so good. No blame is placed. It’s about Ruston cleansing himself of these memories he holds so dear because it is essential to his survival: “You're my poison now…can I drain every drop of you out?” As an analogy it’s simple, but it’s also incredibly potent. Kelly is at his most convincing when he sings, “For the first time, in such a long time / I can say I'm happy now.” As with much of Halloween, it’s a moment that should feel like a burden lifted. Instead, it tears you apart because, like Kelly, you’re forced to confront the fork in the road – where moving on means leaving such a huge piece of yourself behind. Anyone who has been through a painful breakup or divorce can relate, because life runs us through an emotional gauntlet before we can ever truly find ourselves. It’s almost like a skin that we must shed before we can grow into who we’re supposed to be. Halloween chronicles this unbearable yet entirely necessary pain, all while extending its hand to those are enduring a similar hardship.

Halloween was Ruston Kelly’s 2017 debut, and it precedes his well-documented 2020 divorce with country/pop superstar Kacey Musgraves. Curiously, many of the lyrics and themes remain applicable – proof that although no two separations are identical, the emotional anguish is always the same. The album is conceptual and follows a loose timeline, beginning with ‘Black Magic’s hindsight-view of falling in love: “I drank your poison, fell under your spell / Love is hell and nothing more than black magic / You better want what you wish for, it might happen.” From there, it enters a more amicable phase via “Hurricane In My Head (“So backed up, I'm trapped in this Chevy / All I wanna do is get home to you”) all the way up to the bitter tension of a decaying, toxic relationship on ‘Hollywood’ (“Numb me up before I crack…You ain't ready to cut me free, got me in the palm of your hands”). One of the most beautiful and flourishing moments on the album comes by way of ‘Wildflower’, which sees all of Kelly’s hopes and fears about the relationship come to a head, until it’s too much to handle: “All I wanna do is love you like a man / When I'm so tired, everything is slipping from my hands / When all my ghosts get too heavy to hold, wildflower love me brighter than the prettiest rose.” Although the overarching musical aesthetic is akin to the Goo Goo Dolls falling backwards into country music, there’s more than enough character to shield it from any accusations of being too mainstream…and regardless, it’s gorgeous enough that it would be permissible. A handful of sketch-like interludes tie the experience together neatly, rounding out Halloween as quite a convincing concept album.

All of this leads us back to ‘Poison’, the emotionally fragile fulcrum upon which Halloween balances. This is the moment when Kelly realizes the relationship is over, and sings about the love he once willingly drank becoming a toxin that he must now drain from his bloodstream. Following Halloween from its inception to its shattered conclusion is enough to make even those of us in the happiest of relationships break down in sheer empathy. That’s the thing about music – usually it’s here for us, but on a record as vulnerable and tortured as Halloween, the roles can easily be reversed. Regardless of perspective, the album’s emotional weight is undeniable, and its tangible pain seems a pattern doomed to repeat itself – for Ruston, for you, for me. We may never escape being haunted by the ghosts of our past – but when they’re too heavy to hold, Halloween is waiting to lend us a hand.



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user ratings (26)
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
August 4th 2020


35805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This album has been devastating me on a daily basis ever since I "gave up" reviewing (we can see how well that went!) I couldn't not write this.

Digging: Deftones - Ohms

someone
August 4th 2020


992 Comments


does it mean you're back to full time reviewing? will read and listen shortly

Bedex
August 4th 2020


2164 Comments


it couldn't get more sowing than this

Digging: Gorod - Neurotripsicks

MercySeat
August 4th 2020


307 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glad you're back! Even if it's temporary

Digging: Bjork - Post

Clumseee
August 5th 2020


1624 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Damn. How do you feel about Dying Star? I get into, then I start to feel like it's WalMart country lol

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 5th 2020


35805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Dying Star is excellent but a little too polished and a little too long for my liking. This has just the right amount of grit and isn't a chore to get through. I also personally think the lyrics hit harder here.

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
August 5th 2020


3413 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

'Halloween (Downstairs)' is one of the best things I've ever heard.

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 5th 2020


35805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah it's a gorgeous closer...

AlsoAmpersand
August 5th 2020


3 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

501, baby! Lets go!



also, this album bumps in the whip





Slex
Contributing Reviewer
August 5th 2020


10328 Comments


Some great stuff and some boring stuff but holy shit that closer, wow

Digging: Deftones - Ohms

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
August 5th 2020


3413 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Yeah it's a gorgeous closer..."

Actually started penning a review totally centred around it a couple days ago; I'm glad you got in first, though, I was already about ready to abandon it. Guess great minds think alike. ;] Will read this very soon.

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 5th 2020


35805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Would love to read your thoughts regardless

Colton
August 5th 2020


3192 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review, glad to see you're back at it. You break down the themes of the album really well and the emotional impact of it all. I didn't pick up on that too much in my 3 or so listens to be honest. My biggest gripe with this album is that some of the choruses border on boring/overly generic, but some of them are great and for the most part the songwriting here is really good.

Digging: Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues

ChoccyPhilly
August 5th 2020


12720 Comments


Sowing you're not allowed to retire until you hit 1000 now
Also nice review. Was maybe a tad too country for me but maybe i'll be in the mood for this at a random point

Digging: As Sirens Fall - L'appel Du Vide, Pt. 1

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 6th 2020


35805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks - it's a pattern with me, every 4 years or so I need a break and over-correct by making a sweeping statement about retiring. Usually I'm back in a few weeks.

This album is a heartbreaker and I recommend 'Poison' to anyone going through some shit. It's very powerful and tempted tears from me on multiple occasions. The best of the rest are Wildflower, Halloween (Downstairs), and Black Magic.

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 6th 2020


35805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Also this just solidifies that 2017 was by far the best year of the 2010s.

dmathias52
Contributing Reviewer
August 6th 2020


1435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Unexpected but thrilled to see this review. Ruston has become one of my favorite artists this year

Digging: Ruston Kelly - Shape and Destroy

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 6th 2020


35805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks dmathias. I've been trying to push out recs but I think his new album coming out in 2 weeks will help with his popularity. More than anything, people are becoming aware of him now because of his divorce with Musgraves.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
August 6th 2020


26028 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

awesome stufff, Sowing



gonna jump on this shortly. might just start with Halloween!

Digging: Disavowed - Revocation of the Fallen

Atari
Staff Reviewer
August 6th 2020


26028 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

holy shit.. I'm on Black Magic and this is already so amazing



and the lyrics to 1000 graves are so heartbreaking knowing he ended up divorcing Musgraves



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