reviewed by Michael Thomas
The sea has been with us for so long, and so much has happened on it and within it, that it can be a metaphor for just about anything. It can be a friend just as quickly as it can be a foe. It’s a place of renewal and rebirth and certain death. For Krista Muir—who has a long history in the Canadian music scene under her own name and as Lederhosen Lucil—the sea is most definitely not a friend.
The Tides is her first album in three years and the longer time period comes from her battling endometriosis, which left her in pain for some time. In this case, the illness is the sea, and music is her boat, her lifejacket. Given that songs stem from and are about this time in her life, the album is lyrically dark.
But her arrangements are a breath of fresh air. She’s extremely adventurous in the folk-pop realm, sometimes laying on a thick gloom of overlapping synths or organs while at other times strumming the hell out of a ukulele or briefly foraying into surf-pop.
Though she never explicitly mentions her fights with illness, you can clearly understand the pain in songs like “Girl Possessed.” The appropriately ghostly-sounding song features images like “crumples to the floor in a bloody mess” and “hoping no one hears her cry ‘kill me now.'” Then there’s “The Knife” which goes for lyrical sparsity, just repetitions with slight variations of “take a knife, press it in with precision.” Though it’s unclear if it’s talking about her own struggles or someone else’s, “Rockwood Asylum” is positively unsettling, with its sinister melody and almost aggressive singing from Muir.
Other songs provide some shelter from total darkness. Though “Social Pariah” is about being an outcast, the groovy surf-pop in this song is wonderful, and to perhaps further prove her pariah-ness, Muir confidently sings, a propos of nothing, “Bok choy, wakame, swiss chard.” In “Everything is Dangerous,” Muir holds onto hope even if everything can kill you in one way or another.
There’s also just some pure loveliness, like in the vivid “Morther of Crowys” (not a typo), describing beautiful black birds and different colours of the moon. In “Bottom of the Ocean” we finish off the album with shimmering guitar, as though you’re lying on the ocean floor and looking up as someone serenades you.
The ocean takes and gives, but ultimately, you can just overcome it completely.
Top Tracks: “Social Pariah”; “Morther of Crowys”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)