His first album since 2017, Langhorne Slim returns triumphantly with the full release of Strawberry Mansion. The album is structured as three discs, with Strawberry Mansion-Side A having been a teaser released in December of 2020. Full of Slim’s trademark cheer and every-man folk jive, Strawberry Mansion makes for a fun yet emotionally introspective ride.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Slim reveals that he spent the last year working to overcome personal struggles, including anxiety and prescription drug use. Strawberry Mansion touches on this uphill battle, yet the lyrics never land too heavy and the music never rings too somber. The album is also an ode to Slim’s roots growing up in Philadelphia, looking back on his childhood — and more broadly his past –– as he tries to find his path forward.
Langhorne Slim manages to masterfully package the good, the bad and the ugly so it really doesn’t seem all that awful anymore. It’s not that Slim cheapens his emotional authenticity by plastering a stale smile over serious subject matter, but rather that he acknowledges that struggles don’t have to be brushed under the rug –– it’s OK to acknowledge the bad, embrace it and keep walking tall.
For the most part, the tracks of Strawberry Mansion are short, reminiscent of music of the ’50s, where track length was limited by how much music could be packed onto a vinyl record. The bright, energetic folk instrumentation and straightforward lyrical writing makes for a distinctly “old-fashioned” sound. The song “Strawberry Mansion,” in particular, acts as an ode to the fiddle riffs of old-school folk and country bands.
Slim’s songs are thematically poignant, but never too complex; he writes for the “everyday person.” Strawberry Mansion feels like an album of workday songs to pass the time –– they’re accessible. Often, art (especially the abstract kind) can elude the audience’s comprehension; Slim, however, grounds his songs in familiar moments, catchy tunes and relatable lyrics. Anyone can find their inner country folk with Strawberry Mansion.
While Strawberry Mansion is driven by Slim’s personal struggles and triumphs, the album is a product of its time, too. Disc one’s first track, “Mighty Soul,” takes a pointed jab at the chaos of the new year: “You might be worried about the government / I admit that I was worried too.” Yet, this sobering punch is delightfully balanced with Slim’s classic jaunty cheer.
“Dreams” lands startlingly close to home — “I got so tired, I nearly expired / but I ain’t got time to be tired no more.” Whether a gentle nod of encouragement to himself, or his audience, Slim’s songs focus not on defeat, but on perseverance. As he remarks in “Lonesome Times,” “Everything is changing / The stars are rearranging / These are lonesome times.”
Despite the bad, Slim warns us, “Don’t believe everything you think” — don’t believe all the fears, doubts and anxious thoughts that brush away reason.
Listen to Langhorne Slim’s Strawberry Mansion this week for a dose of cheer. The songs are short and sweet –– like strawberries. As he suggests in his songs, these certainly are lonesome times, but with Strawberry Mansion, things don’t feel so lonesome anymore.
Daily Arts Writer Madeleine Gannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.