Recommended Tracks: “Summerland” and “Back Around” (All of them, honestly)
How many ways does a band need to reinvent themselves over the course of their career? Does it work as an elemental half-life model where each new version has less and less of the original self? I think that half•alive have managed to pivot their projection on Give Me Your Shoulders, Pt.1 without relinquishing any of the quintessential charm that made me so intrigued with them in the first place. On this album, they continue to elaborate on feelings of depression, dependency, and divinity and for some miraculous reason it doesn’t sound too heavy at all.
The heartbeat intro of “Make of It” is the starting lifeline of the album. Without knowing the lyrics, the song could stand on its own as an amorphic soundscape, but with them the percussion-laden tack soars. It feels a bit like self-forgiveness and coming to terms with how everyone hurts people they love when they are hurting. Self-reflection can be cathartic, even in the recognition of our own mistakes: “Lost what I have never held/hardly recognize myself.” After the dust settles and the photograph becomes lucid again through easing tears, what should we send a once-known stranger but our well wishes? Another song that touches on mistakes is “What’s Wrong.” It’s easy to say that you would do the right thing when talking theoretically. In actuality, it’s even easier to say silent, and the band captures that by saying “It’s not my blood, but every single day it calls my bluff.” Even if you make the choice once by abstaining from one, you can make a choice to speak up moving forward. You don’t have to stick in that perpetual captivity. It may benefit you to stay silent, but do you want to live with the guilt of your inaction? I think both of these songs are effective at being compassionate with yourself and others when you’ve made misguided decisions.
“Back Around” probably has the most dysphoric sound across the album, but it fits the meaning better for it. This song is not the harmonious feeling of becoming yourself again after depression or dissociation; it’s the hard cycles before that. Logically it makes sense that people care, but you have to feel that for yourself or it doesn’t seem real, and “I know that you love me, but I don’t think you can help me” captures that perfectly. “Let me walk in circles” was a line that really struck me because of how unending recovery feels when you perpetuate the negative thoughts that trap you. A different kind of self-inflicted suffering comes about in “Everything Machine.” This song is about a co-dependency on something that holds the place of real connection. For me, I felt it was a great metaphor for modern society’s inability to separate from the chemical attachment of social media and technology. Whatever image comes to your mind, maybe that’s the addiction you’re struggling with in your own life. The funky, psychedelic vocal interjections and instrumentals make this track a bit addictive, too. Thankfully, it won’t have the same destructive effects as its subject matter.
I love that “Hot Tea” starts with the same desperation you might feel before you reach the person who brings you the most peace. Then, when you see them and they’re holding you, the serenity sweeps in and the song mirrors this sonically. It’s so full of longing and then it’s comforting like the warmth of a hot tea seeping into your fingertips and then the rest of you. I thought the second verse was especially evocative because “I wanna be ruined by love” sounds so visceral, but “Drowning in rivers of peace” is pleasant by contrast. The juxtaposition of these two intrinsic aspects make the depths of that love feel all the more powerful. Following that, “Move Me” sounds like a successful therapy session. “I found my path is that enough?” is an imploration that aches with bone-tired desperation for answers. What might have been rhetorical is answered with “All I had was not enough.” half•alive involved multiple artists and creatives in the production of the music video and it turned out spectacularly strange and wonderful.
Where “Make of It” was winter with its cold, staccato electronic sound, “Summerland” ushers in the nostalgia of summer adventures with warm, kaleidoscopic synth. Echoic vocals layer above anticipatory rhythms, a jog building to a full sprint on heated asphalt roads coated in the rays of long-lived sunsets. The weight lost from a haircut is more than just physical – sometimes it’s the most physical an internal change can get. I think that all of these songs are part of recovery in their own way. I am interested to see where that road will take us with the future parts of this series. For now, please enjoy Give Me Your Shoulders as much as I have.
Different ways to listen or purchase: GMYS, PT 1
Tickets for their tour can be purchased through their website. North American tour dates run Feb – March. European and UK tour dates run April – May.