A review of Leif Vollebekk’s “Twin Solitude”

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Rating: 8.7/10

At the beginning of Leif Vollebekk’s video for “Elegy,” we see the sun shining near the horizon as the artist dances towards it, alone in the long shadows of an approaching evening. His body moves soulfully to the back beat, shuffling forward with eyes closed as he begins to sing the first lines of the song. The lyrics spill out in the midst of his dance:

 

Minor chords and major arcana

Little leather jacket and a black bandana

Kicking over trashcans and telling jokes in Atlanta

When I got the fever, it hit me like a fan

On the back of my hand I don’t know who I am

But I’m free for nothing good for nothing too

Crazy to dream and still crazy about you

Won’t you let me in one more time, babe I want to feel it too

Well nothing is a lie, babe if you know it ain’t true”

 

Throughout “Elegy’s” video, Vollebekk’s body jerks with emotion, his movements coordinated with every emotion of the song, lips trembling with the power of the evocative lyrics. He tiptoes on the sand, moving slowly toward the ocean bathed in orange and pink sunset light. He is both graceful and possessed, writhing with pain that seems to evoke a transcendent beauty. The prose he vomits, accentuating his movements, are Vollebekk at his best, equally conversational and poetic as he balances powerful imagery and personal feeling. It doesn’t get much better than when he sings “Like a thief that you borrow baby take a hold of me, take flight / And I want to do your bidding babe I want to steal away in the night.”

 

Though “Elegy” stands out as the soaring, heartbreaking single from Vollebekk’s new album “Twin Solitude,” the track list moves us deeper than that, pulling us effortlessly across a landscape of feeling and memory. There is a broad sound present on the record, a feeling of traveling across country and mind, sometimes in harmony and sometimes not. At times we live inside the meditative folk of “Michigan” or the soulful pleading of “Into the Ether,” where Vollebekk begs a lover to “quit putting me on.” By the time we arrive at the ebb and flow of “Rest,” a drone of saxophone and harp, we have journeyed with the artist through a portrait that sparkles with hope, longing, and, finally, a bit of serenity.

 

Vollebekk’s blend of imagery and emotion comes to fruition on the track “Big Sky Country,” where he compares the scene of a red-winged blackbird sitting on a cattail to watching a former lover disappear down the street:

 

“Last time I saw you

You disappeared down the street before the bend

Last time I saw you

You disappeared down the street before the bend

And I said hey hey my Liza

Squint to blur my eyes until when

The street looked like a cattail

With you at its end”

 

Certain elements reappear throughout the album. On “Vancouver Time,” Vollebekk relates that “I always loved you but I never paid.” Later, during “Elegy,” the singer laments that “Reparations are now coming my way / Dues I’ve recollected but I never paid.” As he explores his solitude through travel and song, he seems to feel he owes something to the world, and that maybe this sort of exile is part of the payment.

 

But the sound of the album is payment enough. The first half of “Twin Solitude” is soulful and rhythmic. Tight piano and Rhodes match up with back beats that lock Vollebekk into a poetic groove reminiscent of Dylan at his best. On the second half we see his softer, more folk-oriented side, especially evident on “Road to Venus” and “East of Eden,” tracks that evoke the feeling of twilight falling on a lonesome traveler. Although “Twin Solitude” loses a bit of steam by the end, it’s a descent that seem appropriate after the righteous longing that shines through through at the beginning. Vollebekk is tired. He needs rest:

 

“When you’re lost in the meadows you just have to stand

And I looked for the farmhouse, it was covered in sand

And the fire of the moonlight made everything white

I just had to close my eyes

And dream it one night”

 

“Twin Solitude” seems like a turning point for Vollebekk. The personal imagery and piercing insight of the lyrics serves to accent the aching and spacious sound of Vollebekk, pulling us out of our environment and onto a solitary journey. There isn’t a misstep on the album, his heart laid bare for the world to see. The sound of hard piano chords and his raspy delivery will stick in your mind long after the hum of “Rest” has faded, and you’ll be left wondering what role solitude can play in any life, and how we can try to use it well.

 

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