A diary of loss and life after.
Tom Rosenthal is synonymous with music that sounds like it’s going to be bountiful and happy but actually, the messages behind them are quite melancholy. There’s a bittersweet childishness innocence to his melodies and lyrics. They can move from jumping jack euphoria to a pang of tear-inducing endearment in a split second. Nowhere has this been more apparent than the beautiful indie folk-pop album ‘Denis Was A Bird’.
Making an album about personal loss is a very publically private affair. The entire album is dedicated not only to his father and his passing but also about the grieving process and how life still goes on afterwards even if you don’t want it to at the time. Songs like ‘Uncontrollably’ are stark moments of celebrating life and then having the song cut off sharply in its euphoric prime artistically show how things can be cut short without notice. Many people refer to losing a loved one as joining a club. ‘Death Club’ by Tunng is an entire album about this and Tori Amos’ single released today talks about ‘when you know you know’ – about how memories can be comfort rather than pain in time. Many of the songs on this album act as fragments of Tom’s grieving process and how moments in time can be reflected upon.
‘I Went To Bed and I Loved You’ is possibly a remark on the fact that you don’t stop loving someone just because they aren’t here anymore. ‘Little Joys’ hold those memories of goodness close and treasure them. It also acts as a beacon of hope and reassurance that better days can and will come too. ‘Walking Up The Hill Again’ is about coming to terms with how you revisit memories and the chorus of ‘There’s a lot of things I don’t know about you’ is an interesting one. I’ve always found it fascinating to hear of stories of relatives and close friends that have passed as they’ve experienced that person from an entire perspective. You may have only seen one side of someone and each human has a 360-degree personality. All these topics and more are covered sensitively and with delicate emotion or explosive joy and rapture. Especially heartwarming are the snippets of voice from Tom’s parents on different tracks.
Two songs especially feel like giving the listener comfort that things get better. ‘Not a Catastrophe’ and ‘Tractor on the Motorway’ are both hopeful songs, bounding forward like a playful puppy in true Tom Rosenthal style. The entire album, whilst sorrowful, has an air of hope behind it. These two tracks particularly talk about colour returning to your life again and finding joy in things again. It takes time, and that’s acknowledged respectfully, but it will come in time.
‘Denis Was A Bird’ is a grief diary for those needing some optimism and comfort to lean into. Tom Rosenthal has done an incredible job to let all those emotions flow out and channel them into something very personal and global at the same time. Since its release a few weeks ago, I’ve felt the comfort of various songs helping me personally through the grieving process. A personal thank you to Tom and all artists that tackle this incredibly important subject in such detail. When it is done so well, like this album is, it works wonders for so many of us.
Put simply, this and ‘Death Club’ by Tunng are now my two go-to albums for grief perspective.
Recommended track: Half An Orphan
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