There’s an amusing story behind Blue Monday (not the world’s incredible top-selling 12″ record of all time by New Order, which didn’t make any money because the die-cut sleeve was so expensive, but the holiday), which we missed by a week. We apologize for writing this post on the fourth Monday of January instead of the third, dubbed “The Most Depressing Day of the Year” ~ but Drum & Lace‘s EP wasn’t out yet, and we didn’t want to make your day worse by telling you about music you couldn’t yet hear.
Blue Monday was invented in 2005 by Britain’s Sky Travel, based on psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall’s theory that seasonal affective disorder peaks on the year’s third Monday in a perfect storm of gloomy weather, Christmas bills and broken resolutions. The idea caught on quickly, prompting Blue Monday sales in Britain (buy something, it will make you feel better!) but in tone-deaf fashion, missing the fact that the third Monday in January is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, a national holiday, and not very blue. Dr. Arnall has since apologized for leading people to believe that if they were depressed seven days ago, they should be feeling better by now. Depression doesn’t work that way.
But depression does strike in winter, especially long, lonely winters in which the weather is too cold for walking yet too warm for snow. Deprived of the Vitamin D of the sun, many people feel a sense of withdrawal and a yearning for warmth. Enter Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist (Drum & Lace), who specifically chose this time of year to release the Frost EP “in the hopes of bringing some sonic solace and good energy all around.” We applaud this sentiment!
Even better, it works. These five tracks came from different places, traveling circuitous routes to find themselves collected on the EP. The title track is taken from Drum & Lace’s Remixed album on Past Inside the Present, where it is also accompanied by a drum ‘n’ bass (there’s that pun) remix. “Felt” was first found on Healing Together: A Compilation for Mental Health Recovery, which we reviewed last May. “In the Wind” comes from Headphone Commute’s For Ukraine Vol. 3. This is the first time we’re hearing the ambient mix of “Plantae” (from Natura, which we also reviewed) and the live vocal improvisation “Sospiro” (which is also the name of a perfume company inspired by classical music). One can play the EP on repeat and fall into a mood that one might describe as peaceful, calm, relaxed ~ the very definition of ambient music. Knowing that the EP is meant to provide seasonal solace is part of the magic. One may resist, or fall in.
We’re big fans of winter music at A Closer Listen, so a song titled “Frost” was always going to get our attention, winter or not. Sofia’s voice is a salve, the keys soft and delicate as chimes. First the music soothes, then the precipitation, which may be cold rain or sleet but suggests frost, the rime forming quickly on the frozen windowpane. A similar sound will return later on “In the Wind,” but sandwiched in between is the birdsong of “Felt,” which would have fit beautifully on For the Birds, but here acts as a reminder of spring, a passing daydream that will one day come true.
The ambient mix of “Plantae” is a highlight, the bells of the early going reminiscent of those on Björk’s “Who Is It.” These proceed directly from the bells that close “In the Wind” (which also contains faint birds), unifying the pieces. Sequencing is crucial in a set like this, essentially a five-piece puzzle. The right flow can preserve the peace. The eleven-minute “Sospiro” is a pillow of voice, like that of a mother or a friend, wordlessly singing consolation and comfort, the multi-tracked intonations like the other colors of the rainbow: neighboring, complimentary hues.
Today is not Blue Monday, but it is a Monday, and you may be blue. We hope that Sofia’s music will brighten your day. (Richard Allen)
Amazing album. Thanks for sharing this gem!