Dreams submerge one into an altered state of consciousness. So does music. The two become one in Two Saviors, Buck Meek’s new album. It is tinged with sadness and regret but suffused with light. Steeped in nostalgia and setting, Meek invites you into a slice of his memory. The album feels like a love letter written upon waking up from a dream: a little confused, a little unclear in its language but thoughtfully done — that is, if it is not the dream itself.
The Big Thief member’s solo album begins with a daydream. “Pareidolia” is a breath of summer on an album released in the dead of winter. It is a vessel filled with clouds, a finger trailed lazily over a lover’s skin. Literally, “Pareidolia” is defined as the phenomenon of finding myths and patterns in random stimuli, like seeing figures in the clouds. These stories we seek to find in the accidental nature of our lives, this search for meaning, is compressed here into a relaxed love song. Like the rest of the album, it is not eager to explore complicated, profound ideas. It does not desire purpose on an intellectual level. Instead, it finds purpose in all the small, human patterns of everyday life. Purpose is found through a loving observation of the details.
Details are what give this album personality. Lines like “Thank God for coffee / and apple pie” from “Pocketknife” and “Well, did your eyes change? I remember them blue / or were they always hazel?” from “Candle” and all the specific names on “Cannonball! Pt. 2” welcome you into Meek’s world, one filled with birds and guitar twinges.
Although the lyrics are difficult to understand at times, Meek does a good job convincing the listener that this is due to their highly personal, interpretive nature, rather than a failure on his part to fully communicate his meaning. He tends to write with snippets of images, leaving the listener to sew together a quilt of meaning from them, allowing each person to adapt the images to fit into their own lives.
Nostalgia and sadness are universal experiences. Meek, using these as his tools of empathy, does not write explicitly. That is, he does not force the listener to interpret his work in a certain way. Tunes such as “Dream Daughter” and “Two Saviors” drift in the lukewarm lake of memory, addressing someone directly. It feels like a photograph in which the subject smiles radiantly at the person behind the camera. We are left to wonder who inspired such a love. The gentle vocals and guitar used in these songs put you into a trance and feel like a naptime lullaby.
The space for analysis is as wide as the space in his music. Two Saviors leaves room for the band to move and shake and breathe on their own and for his reedy voice to file through it all to your ears. The band’s use of pedal steel, organ, fiddle and drums shine through especially on the more upbeat tunes, like “Second Sight,” “Two Moons (morning)” and “Cannonball! Pt. 2,” anchoring Meek’s singing while taking joyful breaks of their own.
The album can provoke melancholy thoughtfulness or ardent dancing. This dichotomy exists most clearly in “Two Moons” and “Two Moons (morning).” On the first of these two tracks, “Two moons show the way / through the wood early morning.” A sad, slow ballad, it takes its time and allows us to contemplate: What can two moons show us that one can not? What do his subject’s “eyes behind eyes behind her eyes” behold that ours fail to catch? Is the track looking more deeply into memory? Meanwhile, the “morning” version is the same tune but reimagined with an upbeat tempo, a twangy guitar and cheerful saloon piano in the background. It suggests the help brought by a night of good sleep, after a bout of evening blues.
“Pocketknife,” the penultimate track, plays as our night sky begins to fade. The birds mentioned throughout the album start to fight and begin to bring this dream of an album to a close. While for most of the album Meek indulges in his memories of his beloved, here he acknowledges that she has left him, with her only remaining traces being her sleeping bag, her pocket knife, “a watermelon and a lime.”
Following this, “Halo Light” continues to ponder the breakup that underlies Two Saviors directly. Its gentle tone is sadder than the happy, laid-back beginning of “Pareidolia.” “Halo Light” knows its place as the ending track but also recognizes that the last song is nothing but a loop back to the first, as we hit “play” again.
Daily Arts Writer Rosa Sofia Kaminski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.