Silver Torches‘ Let It Be a Dream speaks convincingly and heartbreakingly in a rural, blue-collar voice, along the lines of Jason Isbell or Hillbilly Elegy. (The excellent album art perfectly displays the culture the band is talking about.) But where Isbell’s work can get raucously loud, Silver Torches’ singer/songwriter work is intimate, drawing the listener close to the pain and difficulty of that life.
The lyrics throughout the record are powerful. Even in the most sonically expansive track, the ’80s-synth-led “If I Reach,” principal songwriter Erik Walters ties blue-collar concerns (“There’s no heaven or hell waiting for us / we punch the clock”) to the emotional realities of a dead-end situation (“If you leave before me / Don’t you know / I won’t be far behind / If you make your peace / Before me / I won’t mind”). Elsewhere, stories of small town bars (“Bartender”), rust belt unemployment (“Half a Heart”), and missed opportunities (“Keep the Car Running,” “At the Lantern”) call up comparisons to Bruce Springsteen’s lyrical concerns. In dealing with these nuanced, complex situations, Walters shows himself an skillful lyricist and observer of the human situation.
The music is just as impressive as the lyrics: this is a full-band effort, expanding singer/songwriter tunes with strong arrangements. The tone is different, but the work of Counting Crows has some of the same contours–songs that could be solo pieces, but are filled out. Walters knows how to write an inescapably catchy vocal hook (“Keep the Car Running,” “Like a Child,” “At the Lantern”)–these songs stuck with me for a long time after their runtime. Those aforementioned arrangements are strong: they allow the songs to surge, swell, and sway where necessary. The band offers up a quiet intensity that lends a vital urgency to the tunes of difficult life.
Every song on Let It Be a Dream is commendable, from the emotionally devastating “Let It Be a Dream” to the impressive vocal performance of “Half a Heart” to the soulful “I Can’t Lie” to spartan vibes of closer “Bartender.” It’s not a long record, but it’s one that stuck with me for a long time. If you’re looking for incisive lyrics, excellent songwriting, and intimate performances, Let It Be a Dream is a must-hear. It’s heavy, but it’s the right kind of heavy: the kind that lets you take something away that you didn’t think about before.