Soothing, emotionally fragile indie-folk songs dealing with loss and grief
Andrew Gavin Williams and Luke Elliot Fleeman are an indie-folk duo from Columbus, Ohio. Singer and lyricist Williams also performs in Deadwood Floats. ‘Violet Paper Wings’ is the duo’s first release since their debut EP in 2016.
On first listen it’s not immediately apparent that ‘Violet Paper Wings’‘s main theme is working through grief. Williams’ delicate, almost whispering vocals and the longing, lonely but not desolate music provide a mood of quiet, sensitive introspection. He spins stories out of a few mundane details taken from memories and objects that are assembled like a collage: his grandmother hanging wet clothes on a clothesline, “ketchup in your hair,” hearing ‘Penny Lane’ on the children’s television channel Nickelodeon. ‘Berries’ was inspired by a woman who made a chatbot out of text conversations she kept from a deceased friend. I found the song much more likeable before I learned this unsettling fact.
The album’s lovely piano, synth, and acoustic guitar backing and layered vocals sound like quieter moments of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (‘Blue,’ ‘Anvil’), Elliott Smith, and early Coldplay. The most upbeat, almost folk-rock track is ‘Unabashed,’ which takes a while to pick up steam but provides a nice oasis in an emotionally difficult landscape. ‘Hymn,’ over the drone of a church organ straight out of a Midwestern Methodist Sunday service, expresses frustration with clichéd songs celebrating hometowns. “Never gonna write a love song to Ohio,” Williams sings. The irony, intentional or not, is that ‘Hymn’ does sound a bit like a love song anyway. The gentle, dreamlike ‘Stole You a Moon’ captures the beauty of meeting a kindred spirit. The album’s closing song is ‘Lovin’s for Fools,’ a pleasant duet with Julia Kindall, Williams’ sister-in-law, who is a talented writer on Tumblr.
‘Violet Paper Wings’ is full of powerful images crafted to impart the rush of complex feelings following a major loss, just as cold light begins to shine through the darkness.