10 String Symphony – Weight of the World
10 String Symphony makes music out of conversations – person to person, fiddle to fiddle to banjo. Their full-length album, Weight of the World, is sure to illicit quiet toe-tapping and gentle, involuntary head nods. The duo, a 10-string symphony indeed, creates a sepia atmosphere that expands into both inner landscapes and bustling music halls.
The first track of the album, Anna Jane, serves as a casual beckoning, but Rachel Baiman’s warm and gritty vocals come in confidently to immediately place us within a story of dissonant desire. A softer take on the perspective of a scorned woman reminiscent of Dolly Parton’s Jolene, the tone is more resigned, less pleading. The narrator is reflective, asking “who am I to cry?”. Syrupy and cyclical, the laidback pace of the tune runs parallel to the sudden self-awareness that comes with disappointment.
I’m Not Lonesome shifts into a conversation about solitude that relishes in melodic space and artful pauses, making the fiddle arrangements and tight harmonies all the more heart wrenching in their juxtaposed togetherness. Resonating lyrics work to weave the entire album together, but I’m Not Lonesome is particularly (and painfully) relatable for any person that’s been lonely in the midst of a crowded room (ahem, all of us) or frayed at the edges by a modern lifestyle that compromises too much (again, all of us). Black-eyed Suzie is a pulsing, surprising murder ballad, the uplifting tune of which is slightly disconcerting when one considers the narrative that unfolds. Even a Dog Has Dreams is a lighthearted tune that includes singing tea kettles, heartless stones and a tasty transition into a waltzing chorus.
10 String Symphony uses song to lift stories out of the imagination. They tetter-totter into dissonance in the midst of traditional chord progressions in ways that will trip your ear and then catch it again like a helpful barmaid or staircase railing. The album concludes with stand-out track, Shine, as Christian Sedelmyer takes over lead vocals and joins forces with the soothing tones of a harmonium to set a reflective tone that feels entirely appropriate after an album of various perspectives and playful experiements. The lyrics cut to the bone to expose the melancholy nature of time and the boundaries of human perception. It hurts like looking at the stars hurts – like the air in your lungs is just a little to expansive for the body to contain.
Stars and bursting lungs aside, here is a simplicity to this album that communicates intimacy, and the production quality is that of a certain closeness. Fans of Nickel Creek and Gillian Welch: Rejoice, pour yourself a shot of whiskey and then proceed immediately to your preferred means of acquiring new music to hear it for yourself. It feels like 10 String Symphony is playing right in your living room, singing about simple truths like “you don’t need to be good, just need someone to be good for”. Right there in your living room, they’ll lead you on the path to discovering that it is often the people whom we love the most that end up defining the ins-and-outs of our days; that the profundity of a dog’s dreams is no less miraculous than the cosmos. You will nod your head – to the truth behind their music and also to the contagious pulse that 10 strings, four hands and two voices are able to create.