The blue hues, unsteady triumph, and emotional grandeur
Throughout their self-produced new album Soft Focus Futures, Megan Nash mines the death of her marriage for clues that could decode its demise and set her on a path toward some sort of stability in self.
In the process, they achieve a distillation of heartache and its attendant, all-consuming power that arrives like a 100-year flood in blossoming crescendos buoyed by precise poetry evoking unnatural disasters, the tyranny of silence, old dogs, and the isolation of life in the country.
The blue hues, unsteady triumph, and emotional grandeur of Soft Focus Futures earns a spiritual kinship with author Elizabeth Smart’s masterpiece, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, about Smart’s affair with George Barker. “The water submerges and blends, but I am not dead,” Smart writes about grief and love. “O I am not dead. I am under the sea. The entire sea is on top of me.”
After “Table For One” sets a scene of quiet devastation with a sparse acoustic guitar strum, the slow-building tidal wave of “Artifact” reveals the loneliness of separation’s aftermath: “Our love is an island where we used to live,” Nash sings over the song’s dreamy wash. “It was swallowed by the ocean.” With “My Own Heart,” she seeks a cosmos-sized space in which she’s able to learn to be alone with herself; the more grounded, guitar-fuelled “Coffee” hammers home the less desirable realities of that isolation, like bad dates and the fear that that accompanies being on your own in a creaky old house. With incisive, earthy verse, Nash invokes the particularities of their Prairie home, parsing through childhood memories of her family’s small farm and searching for her place in that lineage with “Another Silent Night,” while using the vernacular of small-town gossip to paint a lonesome rural scene on “Are We Still In Love?” The sonic scope of “Chew Quietly/Clean Slate” looms vast over anxieties about meeting someone new, deploying epic, frenzied breakdowns to communicate inner turmoil.
As the curtain closes, Nash is careful to avoid claiming resolution or closure—the nature of those concepts are fickle at best—and instead chooses to let her heartbeat out “the poisonous rhythm of the truth.” But the silence lingering in the exhales intertwined at the end of “Table For One (reprise)” begins to, maybe, carve out space once again for a great flood of love.