Emotion is such a large part of the creative process, no matter what your creative outlet may be. Living in the midwest can often be rough depending on where you are and what the weather is like, which is usually crappy most of the year with a few bright spots. The Portland based singer/songwriter Erik Withak knows this. He spent time in Minnesota and North Dakota, struggling through long winters. One hears these echoes of ghostly sentiment on his debut record Silhouettes a record which recalls his acoustic folk forebears such as Connor Oberst and Sufjan Stevens.
Silhouettes opens with the bleak sadness of “Hello” a song that sounds somewhat happy. Its bass line bumps along nicely and the nice little picks of guitar give it a happy feeling. But lyrically that happiness is very evasive. “Hello” tells the story of a friendship that has grown apart as many tend to do while one wanders through life. But here the friend ends up hanging from a tree.
It’s haunting and a bit spectral as it goes on and really gives a juxtaposition of feelings much like Bon Iver did with his early work. Next on “A Poem” we get an acoustic story song about the dissolution of a relationship and there are many metaphors which Withak slips in to give us a good picture of the terror felt. Lines like “a seed searchin' for a place to grow/ he found a garden but her grass was too cold / it was too cold,” and “… a captain on a ship filled with lead filled with lead.”
We find other such sad characters with their stories being spelled out in short but distinct lines which are set often against sparkly backgrounds of acoustic folk and happy but hazy melodies which shows the contrast to lyrics versus songwriting. Such songs as the melancholic but happy folk of “Life on Lease” or the creepy and haunting lullaby which “Where Does it Go” eventually becomes and the turn towards a bit of indie rock on the sapling closer “The End.”
Silhouettes does a such a great job of keeping itself balanced, so that even when the emotions run high, the music does also. It never feels like a tugging of at the heartstrings, no shaking a cup of change and begging for sympathy. It is simply a still life painting of words and music.
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