‘Why would you listen to such sad music surely it makes you feel even sadder?’ posed a friend to me once, I replied ‘No, actually melancholic music actually makes me feel ‘better’ about my own life, its not wallowing in misery, there’s a feeling of catharsis in listening to the best kind of sad music.’
New Yorker Sarabeth Tuccek’s debut album ‘Get Well Soon’ is a sad record, a meditation upon ‘a time ruled by grief’ but far from being the soundtrack to wrist slitting and feeling sorry for yourself, it’s a majestic set of twelve songs that are a study in human emotion inspired by the passing of her own father. Produced over fifteen days in a Pennsylvanian basement with acclaimed production duo Ethan Johns and Luther Russell, there’s a therapeutic theme t hat runs through each of these reverb heavy country/folk tinged odes, a way of making sense of the bad things that happen and moving on. In that way it feels like an album that had to be made rather than one that was squeezed out at the demands of some waiting record company. Tucek has been an actress a guest vocalist on the soundtrack of The Brian Jonestown Massacre doc ‘Dig!’ and a therapist, indeed music isn’t exactly her first love it feels more like a calling. It’s little wonder then that this album has been in gestation for years, Tucek isn’t a devotee of modern music she notes that ‘it’s odd how placid a lot of music seems now: so washed out in sound and feeling, it’s like antidepressant music to take anti depressants to’
Tucek’s voice is instantly haunting, comparisons are futile but for a rough hand imagine a restrained Cat Power or the tremulous melancholia of Liz Frazer and the shadowy presence of Mazzy Starr swirling in the midnight confessional of smoke and glasses of whiskey. Her fractured tone feels natural, pure and utterly engrossing throughout, these journies through ther subconsciousness laid bare over a brittle framework of brushed acoustic and subtle arrangements that allow these songs the space they need to breath. From the isolated opener ‘The Wound and the bow’ that takes its name from a book of essays by Edmund Wilson that explores the myth of Pilocetetes a play by Sophocles in which the protagonist suffers a wound so grotesque that he’s left alone on an Island. While the spellbinding waves of ‘Wooden’ rise and fall majestically it’s the first peek into her period of disconnection punctuated by vivid images of loss, clanging guitars and cantering drum patterns. New single ‘State I Am In’ is glorious, arcing like a genuine alt-country classic, stuttering rhythms, slicing Crazy Horse guitar licks and a weary bittersweet vocal that ponders upon the whereabouts of a long lost partner, gathering upon layered of delicious repeated refrains ‘Why not put a face to the pain? Why not give in to the shame/That you Feel anyway?’ it’s simply wonderful and probably the most commercial track here. Elsewhere the shuffling strum of ‘The Fireman‘ elegantly analyses the disintegration of father and daughter relationships through the prism of his occupation (The Fireman saved many a home/But the fireman could not save his own).
Closer and title track ‘Get Well Soon’ is the finest moment here, and perhaps the best aural expression of grief I’ve ever heard committed to tape, Tuckek wrote it for a friend ‘ She was so sad, just inconsolable and it was painful to see her like that.” But she applies it to the own state she was in ‘The Title is a reminder to keep myself well. It’s hard to explain the ferocity of grief I experienced when my father died I really felt like It was going to kill me…I just wanted to remind myself of what I survived’ a tender acoustic strum shot through with unbearably poignant imagery (‘Crying to the gardner/ underweight in the streets hot with grief/begging please don’t cut my trees.’’) and crushing vocal dexterity that would pierce even the coldest hearts, with the emphatically empathetic lyrics Tucek’s tone breaking into double tracked falsetto as the memories reoccur ‘Go help someone/get them well someone/sleep by their side someone/it just takes time….’
Sarabeth Tucek has produced one of the most magisterial, tenderly introspective and powerful albums I’ve heard this year. The next time someone scalds you for listening to too much ‘depressing music’ pity them as they are missing out on ‘Get Well Soon’ an outstandingly affecting album full of quality songwriting, you never know this record could just help you through….