Review Summary: Tranquil nights of stargazing and clouds gone by…
For all those moments I find myself thankful for my day to day life there are times in my life where I just want to feel something... else. That’s not to count me as ungrateful, but I can’t help but share the notion that the constant, consistent in’s and out’s of our day to day lives has the capacity to rub away at our soul, if only a little at a time. This is probably a sentiment that screams entitlement, for why should the universe have
to cater to every whim and petty thought, somehow breaking away at the gold chains and shined bars of a lifetime. Simply, it just
doesn’t. It may not have been what was on Helen Furguson’s mind as she penned enchanting folk tunes, a firm grip on melancholy and intimate vocal hooks. Yet, I can’t help but be enveloped in Survival Of The Unfittest
’s more poignant messages fresh from Bordeaux. Queen Of The Meadow is a humble, yet transportable piece of folk full of both uplifting messages and moments of loss.
Survival Of The Unfittest
is an honest take on life through the eyes of its creator (the music, not life) and at its core, Helen’s lyrics take the stage often twirling through syncopation, croons and tongue in cheek play. The resonance of the album’s opening “Smother” hints at the sickly sweet soundscapes to which Queen Of The Meadow places ample heavy brushstrokes and lighter flourishes. Piano notes twinkle under indie snares and nonchalant cymbal splashes. The high-hat taps away gently in the background—keeping pace, but far from intrusive on the limelight which is clearly, vocally led. The back half of “Smother” is among the most hopeful atmospheric builds of the year and yet the track finishes in simple, single notes.
Darker moments appear, much like “Dishonorable Discharge” which is full of direct lyricism that relates back to the track title. It’s a move that makes sense, but is portrayed in such a manner that the listener can feel attached, emotionally invested in the storyline. Mentions of “kicking the dead horse that’s already down”
and the appeasement of masters are juxtapositions to the clearer, happier climes to which the genre is known to cater for. Similarly, “Honey” bounces between jovial vocal syncopation and omnipresent, darker lyricism. The track itself explores memory, whether it’s real or not depends on how it relates to the listener and yet it’s starkly relatable if you let it
Survival Of The Unfittest
’s latter tracks turn again, becoming almost morbid in nature. “The King and the Hoe” play on the same contrasts starkly popular on the rest of the record, cutting minor progressions into chanted layering and atmospheric builds. Helen’s voice cuts through the firmament with resolve, showcasing her immense talents, both in technical vocal ability and (more importantly) in songwriting strength.
As a whole, Queen Of The Meadow takes a formula and runs with it, oblivious to the fact it’s been done elsewhere, before or will be done again. Survival Of The Unfittest
simply exists to cater to itself. In this manner it becomes precious and self aware, but not in direct competition with another act that would push for widespread success. A contrast to soaring, dizzying heights—grounded in the ‘now’ of mood and feeling. Survival Of The Unfittest
does make you feel
things, but importantly, it makes you feel something different while breaking you out of the usual funk, catching you off guard. There’s room for the usual disclaimer, if you’re not looking to break the pace of what’s ‘usual’ Survival Of The Unfittest
is likely to pass without a second thought, but, if like me you’re looking for a little of something else
, The Queen Of The Meadow sits in the right field.