Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

The Shondes: My Dear One

Written by Niina Pollari
 Active ImageThe violin plucks. Then, the drums, vocals, and guitar come together to lift an unignorable melody out of nothing. This is the Shondes: part grungy riot grrrl, part melancholy classical, entirely explosive and unapologetic. Oh how I love this combination of sounds. At times Temim Fruchter’s drums pound tribally as Louisa Solomon spits out her devastating lines; at other times, the band hangs back and lets Elijah Oberman’s violin emerge to the forefront. But whichever mood the Shondes are in, this album is the apotheosis of a brave and beautiful confrontation with heartbreak, and the band is in it together.

The violin plucks. Then, the drums, vocals, and guitar come together to lift an unignorable melody out of nothing. This is the Shondes: part grungy riot grrrl, part melancholy classical, entirely explosive and unapologetic. Oh how I love this combination of sounds. At times Temim Fruchter’s drums pound tribally as Louisa Solomon spits out her devastating lines; at other times, the band hangs back and lets Elijah Oberman’s violin emerge to the forefront. But whichever mood the Shondes are in, this album is the apotheosis of a brave and beautiful confrontation with heartbreak, and the band is in it together.
{multithumb thumb_width=500 thumb_height=600}{mosimage width=500 height=600} 
There is a story arc to the album, although it’s not one based in linear time. Rather, the album is about truth and how truth (and its ill-omen twin, betrayal) rears its head during the course of an unraveling relationship. “My Dear One” begins the tale: with its question “is the fault line true? / I wonder if it runs through you, my dear one,” singer Solomon queries the lover’s attachment and honesty, a lyrical theme recurring time and again on the album.

After a couple of intense, fast-paced, anthemic anger jams (“Fire Again” and the brooding, almost threatening “Lines and Hooks”) the Shondes bare their slower-building side with “Nothing Glows.” But don’t be fooled—though Louisa Solomon’s epic pipes are at their most kittenish in the beginning of the song, they soon combine with Fureigh’s guitar, Oberman’s violin, and Fruchter’s drums to take the final chorus from melancholy to devastating.  Then, just when it seems that the album’s narrator is headed for the lonely rooms of serious depression, Oberman puts down his violin and sings.  The result is “The Coming Night,” a song about approaching yourself and your origins and then facing what you see fearlessly.  After each verse filled with images of personal history, Oberman sings simply: “I dropped my anchor down / how can I leave this place now?” The sentiment is deceptively straightforward-sounding, but is actually rather complex: how do we, as the characters of our own lives, ever change anything fundamental?  Towards the end of the song, Solomon joins Oberman on backup vocals as Fureigh’s guitar “anchors” the song’s melody; here, the chorus leaves its one-person perspective and becomes the genuine question of a group conscience.

From this song, it seems the album gathers the strength and self-consciousness to tackle the gritty and awful question of what exactly happens in heartbreak. “Miami,” the song that follows, goes through all the places where the narrator realizes in afterthought that the lover was a liar (“In Seattle, in Boston, the places that we’ve been”). It’s an invocation and banishment: the narrator is powerful enough to tell the other to be forever gone (“I’m never going to go anywhere with you again”). The other is a coward, and the narrator finally realizes this: as the melody both soars and chugs beyond her, Solomon sings “I never knew you could be so cowardly / why don’t you step up and hit me?” knowing finally full well that nothing will happen of the sort.
{multithumb thumb_width=500 thumb_height=600}{mosimage width=500 height=600}
After “Miami” things slow down a bit.  But let me talk about my favorite track on the album, a few tracks down.  In keeping with their name (a shonde being Yiddish for “disgrace”), the band brings “You Ought to Be Ashamed,” the album’s sing-along anthem: blunt, devastating, and culminating to an ending of counterintuitively happy, infinitely hummable doo-wop. The narrator of the heartbreak arc is past the anger of “Miami” and onto a new strange triumph that allows for dry humor infused observations about the situation (“It’s just like the worst of Bukowski, Updike, Kerouac / the story of a man without ties and without love”). But in the end the song’s central message is this: the lover has failed, and was wrong, and should be ashamed.  The lyrics are no longer rife with self-loathing, and Solomon sings them with conviction; the rest of the band affirms with the most amazing backup vocals of the entire composition.

The real theme that emerges is one of unspoken alliance with those you can finally turn to at your lowest, and so the tone of the album changes: “Make it Beautiful,” the collection’s most optimistic tune, finds the band looking upward and outward to the unknowable future, imploring the unknown person (a future lover, or perhaps just the idea of the future) to make it alright by whatever means possible.  In the end, My Dear One is an album that establishes, obsesses on, and moves away from, the terrible situation of heartbreak.  And by the end of the album, it feels like this move worked.

Share this post