Published Aug 08, 2018Existing within a haunting, hymnal veil, Sarah Beth Tomberlin's debut At Weddings is a loosely bound, but tender examination of a search for her own identity. Growing up in a deeply religious family, Tomberlin warily navigates her newly attained independence with little more than guitar, keyboards and a reverberating soft power that meticulously frees herself from the burden of a defined path.
Opening song "Any Other Way" begins with a simply strummed acoustic guitar and Tomberlin's moonlit voice for an untouched lullaby-folk song. An eroding guitar line creaks and bends in sodden air on "Seventeen" and Tomberlin peacefully recalls her teenage years and questions the innocence that was handed to her.
Tomberlin goes much further in musical experimentation throughout At Weddings, and she consistently articulates her dissipating faith with her graceful metaphoric reflections. On "Tornado," an encompassing helicopter-like static noise rises and falls with a clean chiming electric piano while Tomberlin breathtakingly sings, "I am a tornado with big green eyes and a heartbeat," diminishing deep feelings of fear into profoundly delicate yet hulking imagery.
"I'm Not Scared" is carried wistfully by secluded piano, drawing sharp outlines of shadow and light in Tomberlin's chilling stillness in her pronounced delivery of, "and to be a woman is to be in pain and my body reminds me almost every day." Multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett, who also produced the album, provides backing vocals among the engulfing swashes of ambience and lingering guitar on "Self-Help," where Tomberlin boldly sings, "electrocuted in the bathtub, yellow black my bruises become."
At 23 years old, Tomberlin is a rising songwriter with an astute sense of curiosity and solemn maturity. Her tranquilizing balance of wandering purity and unconvincing bravery is intimately grasped and yet confronted with anxiety and disbelief that decorates her daydream-like prose in conflicting ways. (Saddle Creek)