Desolate Love Songs
Emma Ruth Rundle’s newest solo project, Marked for Death, is a romantically grim masterpiece, guaranteed to give listeners goosebumps. Rundle’s supreme talent for poetry allows her to craft some unforgettable lyrical passages. And her words are made all the more captivating by the accompanying music. For example, the noir, gothic vocal melodies and scratchy guitars of “Medusa” and“Hand of God” help to establish gripping soundscapes. Thematically, Marked for Death‘s songs seem to be highly tied to various kinds of relationships. As she previously stated in an interview with The Fader regarding the album’s eponymous opener, “It’s a defeated love song of sorts: from the self loathing alcoholic in flames to her one time truly broken, lost and mentally ill friend.” Undoubtedly, Rundle’s latest album contains some torturous themes. However, she manages to present them quite simply and satisfyingly with her alluring brand of music.
The album title, Marked for Death, says it all. A relationship is doomed from the very start. Rundle’s words are so relatable that it seems almost impossible for her poetry to be fictional. As heard in the album’s first track, two people are spiraling into the depths of darkness in a relationship characterized by imbalance, dependency and sacrifice. Rundle asks,“who else is going to take my place and hold and keep you safe…who else is going to stay?” These words come from a person who has obviously invested love, sweat and tears into an emotional connection. As a result of this investment, this individual feels crazy once the situation sours. Rundle’s word choice is deliberate in capturing this feeling of insecurity. The word “crazy” is repeated throughout the course of “Marked for Death.” Interestingly enough, it seems as if our culture has become accustomed to this word within the context of love and relationships – e.g. Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” and Irene Diaz’s “Crazy Love.” Emma Ruth Rundle is no exception to this trend. This word seems to come hand in hand with the inevitable death of a relationship. Sucked into the madness of love, Rundle states, “ you were right on time to meet me, crazy love, and watch us die.” Rundle possesses such a great talent for expression, and her lyrics are as strong as they are beautiful.
Relationships – specifically, unhealthy ones – seem to be a continuous theme on Marked For Death. The second track on the album, “Protection,” details a relationship in which one seeks the comfort of security. Rundle sings about being symbolically tied down. Despite this other person’s assurance of his irreplaceable support and protection, the singer seems to experience a loss of self-worth. The vocals soar, echoing, “I am worthless in your arms, but you offer this protection no one else has given me.” The guitar solo is wonderfully ambient, adorned by distortion that it both beautiful and harsh – the perfect complement to Rundle’s hauntingly soothing vocals.
Rundle is a solo artist, but she has also been involved in other music groups (e.g. Red Sparrowes and Marriages). Currently, she is touring Europe with Wovenhand, which has garnered her more exposure than ever before. While her sound may not be entirely mainstream, as evinced by the heavyhearted tone of Marked for Death, it does possess a certain honesty that makes it pleasantly uncomfortable.