A perfect album for the plague year
If people need some kind of artistic acknowledgement of the pandemic hell they’re living in, but they can’t stand to hear some corporation say “in these trying times” one more time, then Thin Lear’s Wooden Cave is the album to listen to. The track “Different Tune” opens with the lyric “there’s no more content to consume,” a phrase that gets repeated as the song goes on. Immediately the mind goes to quarantine. Everyone is in month four of staying inside (those who mind the health warnings anyway), and many feel like they’ve watched everything on Netflix, read all the books, gotten sick of all music. There’s no more content to consume. Another lyric “Time alone has taken its toll” brings quarantine to mind as well.
“Guesthouse” is an uptempo ode to loneliness. “Me and my downtime, we get along, strapped to my back like a nuclear bomb. Do you have any idea what I’m like on my own?” Many people find themselves occupied with sourdough starters and whatever new hobbies they’ve taken up, but then people look up from their distraction to realize that they’ve been shut up for four months, with no end yet in sight. This is the ticking time bomb, a nuclear bomb in this case, everyone’s personal threshold for pretending that the new normal is normal.
References to COVID are a little more subtle through the rest of the album. Most of the songs deal with hopelessness, past or present. “I Thought I Was Alone” is an excellent example of this, as is the titular track “Wooden Cave.” One of the lyrics asks, “Do you sleep in the clouds and wake in a haze of rain? Who’s been letting you down?” The questions paired with the down-turned musical tone capture the common feeling of anger at the mishandling of COVID and police brutality this year. The angry lyrics sung with aching sadness capture the disappointment and disillusionment many people are feeling right now.
“A Simple Phrase” is the best track on the album. The violin and waltzing guitar combine beautifully, painting a night sky. “Forget about the things that need to happen. You’re not really here, you met your end ages ago.” The themes of death, of alienation, of being a ghost are somehow more peaceful than chilling. It could be literal death, it could refer to the death of an era, depending on the interpretation.
Wooden Cave is probably not going to make one feel better about the plague year. It’s not the optimistic, pumped up album that some people might need. But if someone is down about quarantine and don’t have it in them to ‘get psyched,’ then Thin Lear will meet them where they’re at with this record.