mewithoutYou
Pale Horses


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
April 28th, 2021 | 79 replies


Release Date: 2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ ה' אֶחָד قل هو الله احد الله الصمد

Back in 2015, albums about the end of the world seemed thrilling and fantastical; mere folklore. A hydrogen bomb explodes in outer space to form a rainbow, causing stars to rain down on us like figs from the Nebraska sky? Awesome. The sky opens up and mountains move from their posts, while the sun fades to black? Wicked. Then 2016 happened, and as you know, pretty much everything went to hell in a handbasket. Somewhere between casual nuclear holocaust threats and a worldwide plague, doomsday speculation began hitting a little close to home. I like my apocalypses fictional and far away – can we go back to that, please?

At least the tribulation of the last five years has brought me closer to Pale Horses, an album I'm becoming increasingly convinced is mewithoutYou's best. At the time of its release, Will Yip's production sounded murky and faint to me – a disappointing facet of an otherwise excellent record. Now, it sounds like the sickening haze of a radioactive fallout zone; or perhaps the giant Saharan dust cloud that stretched the length of the Atlantic to reach the United States in 2020. Context is everything, and when the world around you starts going up in either literal or figurative smoke, muddy production becomes a stroke of genius rather than a problem.

Lyrics that at first seemed too cryptic for their own good have also come alive over the course of time. "Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabachthani" is the cry of a mourning Aaron Weiss at the conclusion of 'Dorothy' – a haunting track where he laments the absence of his deceased father during his time of marriage – and translates to Jesus' final cry during crucifiction "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" I also didn't know that the distant mutters preceding the epic breakdown on 'Rainbow Signs' were actually prayers from the Torah and Qu'ran, each praising God via different tongues and through the scopes of separate religions. Lines like "Beneath a Coatesville farm with incorruptible charm / We leaned ephemeral bones on everlasting arms" went in one ear and out the other for years, but now I understand that it's a reference to the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship and Mosque where Aaron's father is buried. This is why Pale Horses never could have been fully appreciated in its time – it is too profound personally, religiously, and academically for us to glean total meaning from a handful of cursory listens.

Of course, Aaron keeps a good deal of Pale Horses to himself, and that's a good thing. That Abrahamic joke between him and his dad – which nobody, not even his wife, is privy to – wouldn't be nearly the dagger-to-the-heart that it is if we were all in on its meaning. Some things just aren't meant to be shared with the world. The stone cold ripper 'Red Cow', sure. The melodic account of H-bombs exploding above our exosphere in 'Magic Lantern Days', absolutely. But Pale Horses' real magic isn't in its terrifying accounts of Earth's final hours; it's in Aaron Weiss' ability to take devastating real-life endings and illustrate them through the lens of a fantasy. By holding onto something so small, even just a joke shared long ago between a father and his son, Weiss is able to retain a piece of his identity that can't be taken away – not by a bi-annual mental collapse, not even by the apocalypse itself. Again, perspective is everything – and as time marches on, Pale Horses only provides me with more of it.



s
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Slex
April 28th 2021


11203 Comments


Well I'm excited to read this, been meaning to revisit this album, it still hasn't fully clicked with me lol

Digging: Origami Angel - Gami Gang

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 28th 2021


37586 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

90 pages of comments gone. Say goodbye to my 2015 review and hello to my 2021 take.

Digging: Iosonouncane - IRA

thecheatisnotdead
April 28th 2021


1072 Comments


"Red Cow" IS a stone cold ripper.

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 28th 2021


37586 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Phrase was brought to you via Rowan in description of Manchester Orchestra's "Shake It Out", although the application is even more fitting here I think.

theBoneyKing
April 28th 2021


20422 Comments


This is really random but I have a distinct memory of reading your original review while in the waiting room at the doctor's office XD

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2021


2315 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nice! Easily my favorite mewithoutYou record right here

brandaao
April 28th 2021


170 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nice! Easily my favorite mewithoutYou record right here [2]



and might also add, one of my favorite records ever.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2021


2315 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yes, that too! This one took a while to fully grow on me, but there's been no going back

tyman128
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2021


2453 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

very close to bumping this record to a 5 personally

Digging: Manchester Orchestra - The Million Masks of God

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2021


5856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wow, had no idea you had just posted this when I decided to re-check this today, guess it's just a mwY kinda day!



This is definitely connecting a little more than it did on first listen, bump to a 4 is likely imminent

Digging: Chad VanGaalen - World's Most Stressed Out Gardener

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 28th 2021


37586 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"This is really random but I have a distinct memory of reading your original review while in the waiting room at the doctor's office XD"

That's awesome, lol. I love hearing stories like that. I remember it was really hot the day I wrote this, had the AC blasting, and I was trying really hard to get it written before my night shift job started. I just felt like it was an album worth revisiting with an updated perspective; that 4 just didn't feel right anymore.

Feather
April 28th 2021


6847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Rainbow Signs absolutely ripppppped live while simultaneously making me read a bit of the badass 4 horsemen of the apocalypse part of the bible when I got home. Great review as always BUT I gotta say, your 5 year US outlook is a little dramatic for me XD

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2021


36306 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nice, correct score and definitely best mwY

Digging: Lenny Valentino - Uwaga! Jedzie tramwaj

letsgofishing
April 28th 2021


1512 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Rainbow Signs absolutely ripppppped live"



I'm so damn jealous. Last saw them in Denver in 2018 and got no Rainbow Signs or Sweater Poorly Knit. The show was otherworldly regardless, though. The second verse of New Wines, New Skins dropped like a sledgehammer. I'll never forget it.



Plus, Aaron was holding his young daughter before the show, and I caught his eye, and I meant to say something about the difference his art has made in my life, but I got distracted by how cute his girl was, and we just shared this real tender sustained smile instead, and it was probably just as good.

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2021


13973 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Today on “Hebrew Lessons with Sowing”

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2021


36306 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I disagree q strongly that the inflation of real life apocalyptic imagery is the reason this record aged well (though I certainly see how that brought you closer to it) - the more I come back to it, the more secondary the straightforward brimstone themes seem compared to the almost unique complexity behind Weiss' standpoints and (presumably) motivations for writing in the first place.

You're right that this was never something we could have understood with a couple of spins back in 2015 and that it's willfully, playfully and often inadvertently impenetrable at points, but these songs hold up so well not for the superficial imagery they evoke but for their psychological depth.

I don't think this alb is any less of an allegory than Ten Stories tbh, but whereas that one was lucky enough to represent cogent moral standpoints, this one catches Weiss at the most conflicted he'd been in years and years - it's staggering how ways he finds ways to unpack that dead dad/new wife combo (and, perhaps, unspoken 2.5th bridge theme: loss of virginity and disorientation as he struggles to source a suitable role model for a hitherto irrelevant guise of masculinity between an invisible God and an absent father). The man's a total mess and it's beautiful how closely and densely his lyrics follow suit; for me, considerations of "why did he relate so closely to visions old and new of armageddon" ultimately pack much more weight than "how do I relate to armageddon today", though the scope for preference is wonderfully open there

I also think the reason Untitled has aged much worse than this for me is that it largely orbits, unpacks and clarifies the same themes without the nuclear resonance of coming straight after the source. Hard to say it makes it a worse record, but I think it's much more compelling hearing Weiss closer to the source of those driving forces behind whoever the hell he is today. Beautiful man

also the production is indeed perfect for this alb and anyone who disagrees hasn't heard it properly, imma die on that hill

also also the Rainbow Signs prayer thing is cute, right? I'd never have known that if I didn't have a beautiful tie-dye shirt with both prayers on in print. Got the meaning straight from Aaron when I was awkward after their show and needed a conversation starter, beautiful man [2]

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2021


13973 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

penisballs

letsgofishing
April 28th 2021


1512 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I loved this record from the very start, but, and I wrote about it a bit in my review, when I really grew close to it was as a soundtrack to the aftermath of the 2016 election. There was a lot of personal turmoil that drove that as well, but certainly, my loss of innocent faith in my country and just an overall start-of-the-end-of-days universal vibe really made this record spark alive and speak truth to me.



I don't think Sowing is off in the slightest with those remarks.

letsgofishing
April 28th 2021


1512 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

If nothing else, if I ever woke up one day and found the world actually was ending -



This the record I'm turning on. No doubt about that.

Slex
April 28th 2021


11203 Comments


Interesting concept there Fish, pretty sure I'd be real basic and take F#



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