Released on 10 August via the ever-reliable Saddle Creek Records, Sarah-Beth Tomberlin’s debut album ‘At Weddings’ is one you’ll want to hold dear. It’s a transcendant and poignant record about learning to love oneself, even when everything seems to be caving in on you.
The gentle folk of ‘Any Other Way’ opens the record with Tomberlin recalling her search for ‘self-assurance’ despite her many fears and anxieties and ongoing struggle to find her place in the world. The sad song has a rhythmic and entrancing tone as Tomberlin states ‘You said I was brave but I just feel insane’ and then admits ‘I’m tired of running away’. Downplayed electronics add extra atmosphere to the slow-burning ‘Untitled 1’, while ‘Tornado’ is full of enchanting synths as Tomberlin compares herself to the subject but with ‘big, green eyes and a heartbeat’. It’s the kind of song that can bring you to tears on first listen.
‘You Are Here’ is a break-up song that captures the pain of your significant other moving on with their life when you were imagining a future: ‘I’m trying to give you everything you want and I’m trying to be everything you want’; ‘And your patience is thinning and I’m looking for a smile or a touch or some tenderness’. And if those heartbreaking lyrics don’t get you, just wait until Tomberlin pleads ‘You are in my heart’. The London Grammar-esque ‘A Video Game’ has Tomberlin rallying against a consistent liar who now appears to have found a new, more positive purpose in their life: ‘I wish I was a hero with something beautiful to say’.
Much of the record draws from Tomberlin’s experiences studying in a college at a private Christian school she has jokingly compared to a cult. The daughter of a Baptist pastor, she looks over her struggles to find her place in the world after realising she didn’t share the same beliefs as her family in ‘I’m Not Scared’. Over beautiful strings and piano, she reveals how she hated church and that she ‘spent so much time looking that I almost forgot to search’ before explaining ‘to be a woman is to be in pain’ and how she’s now finding her own route in life: ‘I wear your judgment as a crown’.
As the album draws to a close, Tomberlin offers a nostalgic Elliott Smith-style look back on how young live is futile (‘Seventeen’), talks about heartache amidst a series of dark metaphors (‘Self-help’) and pleads for companionship on the closing ‘February’: ‘Won’t someone take my hand and say that they care?’
‘At Weddings’ is one of those albums that draws you in with its personal experiences and subtle soundscapes. It’s also one you have to listen to the whole way through. Sarah-Beth Tomberlin is an elegant and passionate singer-songwriter and this record will fit perfectly alongside Julien Baker’s ‘Broken Ankle’ and Bright Eyes’ ‘Lifted’ in your collection.
‘At Weddings’ is out on 10 August. Pre-order via Tomberlin’s Bandcamp.