Album cover

The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. So sayeth the book of Jeremiah, and this time I might even believe it. The chill has cut away at this most claustrophobic of summers, as an election puts a pit of dread in everyone’s stomach. As Dylan said in Desolation Row, when you asked how I was doing, was that some kind of joke? 

It probably isn’t fair to view music through the prism of the time you first hear it. Or even rational really. Your favorite winter album might have been written by the pool at Caesar’s Palace. But that’s how we hear music, and into this autumn of discontent comes Linden Hollow with their new release “Light the Lanterns.” 

The album is darkly lush, with brooding piano intros building to soaring choruses. Singer-Songwriter’s Rebecca McCusker’s keening lead vocals, often augmented by tight layers of harmony from Paige Vandiver and Emily Ng, run from childish curiosity to outright witchcraft. Ng’s violin adds haunting texture. But don’t write this off as folk music – when Vandiver’s drums kick in Linden is fully capable of rocking out.

The album opens with “Maybe You Can Stay.” It’s a love song, or at least it hopes to be – “[m[aybe you can stay instead of going home?” It starts softly, all vocal trills and close harmonies. It quickly turns, though, to a driven chorus propelled along by some nice tom work on the drums. Some great lyrics in what could easily have been a cliché – “kiss my teeth ‘cause I’m laughing.” The pitch drop on the chorus is a nice touch. 

“Light the Lanterns” is about bad love. Whether it’s about a lover, parent, or friend, one person is growing out of a relationship while the other is trying to control it. “I’m caught between the ties that bind and needing to tend the lighthouse.” We all know how this one ends, but goddamn McCusker can write a chorus. 

“Never Worn these Boots,” gets off to a slow start with a reference to playing guitars under trees, but is rescued at the 1:15 mark when some electric guitar kicks in. Smooth sailing from there, heavy drums and vocals raging against those who have “never worn these boots or walked this trail.” 

Track 4 is an arrangement of the traditional sea chantey “Cape Cod Girls.” My last encounter with this song was the cafeteria/music room at my elementary school, and even as an eight-year-old I thought there was something a little off about that tune. Linden puts it to a slow tempo with an extravagant vocal arrangement, which results in something deliciously creepy. These Cape Cod girls might be more at home in Lovecraft’s Innsmouth. 

“Twenty-Five” has the album’s pop hook, and some great imagery on the lyrics: “[y]ou grew up in a house with the shades all drawn. An angry brother, a yard of mud and a rooster.” Dark and unpredictable, with a lyric (“I got married, the same year that you died”) that would have been at home in one of the old folk songs. 

  Track 6, “A Minor Interlude” is 41 seconds of Ionian notes in a rather discomfiting time pattern on I’m going to guess a glockenspiel? Regardless of what it was played on, it’s unsettling.

Track 7, “Wild Roses,” has none of the sultry sounds of summer that its lyrics promise. Haunting violin and layered vocals harmonies deliver a beautiful song, but not one about a healthy relationship.  “When you would admit you love me, but now your laugh brings me undone.” Yikes.

The highlight of the album might be its final track, “Salem.” “You rode down to Salem when you heard of tragedy. Forged a footpath in the wood, gathered rye and rosemary.” If I’m not mistaken, that’s both a reference to ergot hallucination and a shout-out to Scarborough Fair in the same sentence. Damn. The violin driven rhythm is a treat, and the lyrics blend the ugly things of the past and present. 

Not much to complain about here. The band probably goes to the well one too many times with the arpeggiated intros, but in fairness it’s that sort of music. I did avoid track 8, entitled “Trains,” because if you start reviewing train songs the next thing you know people are asking you to review circus themes and zydeco. You got to draw the line somewhere. 

Light the Lanterns is an excellent body of work with at least three songs, “Maybe You Can Stay,” “Light the Lanterns,” and “Salem,” which are startlingly good. Listening to it might not make you feel better about the present, but it will remind you there is always some beauty in the world.