Review Summary: This is not a gushing personal review, and this is not a classic album. But it's almost both!
Civil Twilight is one of many 2010s rock bands that people fell head over heels for (thanks in large part to their hit 'Letters From The Sky') before promptly forgetting about them roughly twelve seconds later. I exaggerate, but their sophomore slump Holy Weather
didn't aid the band's cause, which is ultimately a shame because by the time Story of an Immigrant
was released three years later there wasn't nearly as much of an audience for them remaining. Luckily for me - someone who's always fashionably late to parties - it was actually my introduction to the band. As the crashing guitars of 'Oh Daniel' washed over me, it felt like a kind of musical rebirth. I'd just switched careers, signed for a new apartment, and set a wedding date with my fiancee, so the splendorous waves of guitars/drums that erupted throughout 'Oh Daniel' were like a tidal wave washing away my old life, leaving me on a bare and sandy beach to start anew. It was both invigorating and terrifying.
Before I go too much further: no
, this is not one of those "memories" reviews where I weave in a series of personal anecdotes to justify hyperbolic praise for an otherwise okay
album. Honestly, I didn't even think much of this thing when it first dropped. I loved 'Oh Daniel' from the moment I laid ears on it (in case I haven't already made that obvious!), and I thought 'Holy Dove' was a proper banger (seriously, why all the hate for such an infectious/groove-laden electronic rock song?), but the rest of the album fizzled out on first, second, third, and N
th impressions. I eventually gave up on it, but 'Holy Dove' and 'Oh Daniel' kept me coming back. Each year, I'd find myself falling in love with a new song that I'd previously disregarded without so much as a second thought. The gorgeous trickle of acoustic guitars on 'Love Was All That Mattered' randomly hit me like a ton of bricks one morning while driving to work in 2017. I think it took me until 2019 to hear the beauty in the title track, where I'd somehow previously overlooked those gushing, propulsive crescendos as well as verses like "All of my possessions, they're lying on the backseat / I tidy and I clean but it's never neat / Such is my life." Just this afternoon, a line late into 'All My Clothes' cut straight to my core: "How many scars will it take to remind us? / That love is blindness"..."I wanna be the winter breeze that carries you home / I wanna be the only heart you hold." ***
, man. It took six years, but I'm finally at a point where I enjoy almost every song for an interesting instrumental quirk, lyrical gem, or some other distinctive wrinkle. I'd say this album has grown on me enough, but who knows - maybe in a few more years I'll finally see what the hell these guys were thinking when they wrote 'River Child'.
The reason I point out Story of an Immigrant
's snail-paced takeover of my heart is because there's honestly not much music that sticks with me these days. I listen to far too much music for far too little time. It's a pattern of streaming and discarding that I can't seem to break, save for a few classics that never fade. That's where Story of an Immigrant
baffles me - this in no way a classic. It's flawed, stylistically inconsistent, and not even really all that catchy most of the time. Still, year in and year out, I come crawling back to it. There's just a warmth here that embraces me like some long-lost friend. I don't know what to attribute that sensation to. It could be Steven McKellar's impassioned vocals and heartfelt lyrics, or maybe the subtle electronics bubbling beneath the record's pop/rock/acoustic framework. Whatever it is, I can't help but be taken by Story of an Immigrant
: an album blessed with a sincere urgency that I've heard from very few other bands. May it continue to confuse and inspire me.