Recommended Tracks: “Alone,” “Turn It All Around,” “The Way”
Artists You May Like: Graham Colton, Ron Pope, Iron & Wine
There are times when life can become so overwhelming and stressful that the solution is to hide away. To go off into the woods or onto an island, unplug, and get lost in the solitude. As tempting as it is to live this way forever, out of sight and out of mind, relationships and interactions with people are essential. We all can’t go through life alone, and as we hear on Zach Berkman’s ninth studio album, The Heart Of, going through life without relationships and interactions is a mistake. Throughout the album, Zach explores the constant change that is found in relationships and interactions as we age, determined to not various issues and fears get in the way of growing up.
When it comes down to it, The Heart Of prioritizes the impact of friendships, romantic relationships, and family. Zach walks us through those moments when he has been there for someone, has reflected on what could have been, and has been grateful to find his tribe. In tracks like “My Old Friend” and “Alone,” he highlights the way that hard times can put a strain on all types of relationships, but it is important to never give up on someone completely. Elsewhere, “On The Vine” is about a breakup and the conflicting ways it made him feel. Over thrashy downbeats and twinkling piano, Zach sings, “I was sober the / Moment I had thought / It was easy to find / But a love like that don’t grow like fruit on the vine,” appreciating what he shared with that person. On the equally percussive “Always Far,” Zach pens a simple love song, celebrating those special people in his life. Over the chugging, folksy rhythms heard in the background, he shares, “I’m always far from home when you are gone,” knowing that he is most at ease when these people are around.
While Zach stresses the importance of working through issues and facing conflict in relationships, he demonstrates that it is not as easy as it sounds. As much as he tries to be present or move on, there will always be obstacles and doubts that will haunt him. On “Sleep Tight,” for instance, he gives a final sendoff to those who are not in his life anymore. While it has the feel of a light lullaby, there is a darkness and detachment to it that makes it heavy, especially through the hushed vocals. Lines like, “You stayed on my mind / Dreams that I couldn’t shake / Like a habit I couldn’t break,” convey his regret with the way things ended. Keeping up with the whole “sleeping” theme is “Lie Awake,” which paints a picture of two people who are about to become each other’s exes. Inspired by a friend’s breakup, which involved the friend living with the ex, Zach wondered what it would be like to “lie awake” next to someone in bed, sensing that the end of the relationship is near. He compares it to waiting for sunlight to break in the morning, the thought of its comforting light helping to erase any and all worries.
Overall, though, there is an optimism to the album that encourages the listener to seize opportunity and hope for the best. If a fresh start is needed, then embrace the change by all means. As you do so, “Turn It All Around” and “Empire” could be your theme songs. Both tracks recognize the connection between hope and moving on, in that if you do not trust or hope that things could be better, then you may never move on. With “The Way,” Zach mentions the journey that comes from chasing hope. While it may seem like you could be the only one going through the change and embracing new moments, you are not alone. Backed by comforting guitars and unassuming piano, he sings, “And the ones we love / And the ones we know / Give it on / Give it up / Let it go,” finding peace.
All in all, The Heart Of is a very loving, vulnerable, and honest album that studies evolution in and out of relationships. The twelve tracks on the album are about Zach’s navigation as he gets older, bringing forth the different struggles and lessons that are coming through in the process. These all have an impact on a personal level, but Zach is not oblivious to the impact all the change has on his relationships and on those around him. The album title ties this concept together, as it speaks to Zach’s growing up in “the heart of” Illinois and the camaraderie found while getting to “the heart of” the songs in the creative process. He was able to bring in various friends to complete this album, and they all recorded it in his grandparents’ old farmhouse, embodying the themes of connection and change – embodying what The Heart Of is all about.
You can listen to The Heart Of on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.