Sarah Beth Tomberlin follows up 2018’s ‘At Weddings’ and 2020’s ‘Projections’ EP with her second album ‘i don’t know who needs to hear this…’, a record that she says is designed ‘to examine, hold space (and) make an altar for the feelings’. Making use of pedal steel, old acoustic guitars and synths – but in a sparse and often somber way while often recorded live – the album is filled with tender melody and soul searching…
‘Easy’ opens the record with an emotive punch as Tomberlin talks about forgetting about misery over restrained piano notes that bring to mind Tunng. She also looks back at her own experiences in a painfully honest manner: ‘Didn’t hear from you this weekend and I know what that means. You don’t know how you feel about her but I know it hurts me’. This heartbreak and pain continues through onto the twinkly-emo-tinged ‘Born Again Runner’: ‘I’m tired of calling your bluff’ before the fuller sound of ‘Tap’ acts as an ode to the beauty of nature: ‘Do you think about the trees in the breeze? How they swing and talk and breathe’.
‘Memory’ sits firmly in the latter-day Sharon Van Etten/Sufjan Stevens camp with its use of swirling synths and chamber pop piano before ‘Unsaid’ finds Tomberlin looking back at the move from her small hometown to ‘a city of six-lane highways and lots of traffic lights’. Evaluating how this affected her mental health and well-being, she asks herself ‘Was I happy in the quiet?’ and talks about the people she wanted to move on from: ‘If I don’t call you up, I don’t have to feel down’. There are bursts of brass scattered throughout ‘Collect Caller’ as Tomberlin recalls the story of someone who loves drugs and keeps getting into difficult situations: ‘Your world’s getting smaller’.
‘Stoned’ takes the record into an anthemic indie rock space akin to The National, complete with hypnotic rhythm, crashing drums and nlasts of guitar while the opening line of ‘Happy Accident’ asks ‘What’s the point of this if I know how it ends?’ This then moves on to powerful and poignant accusations at the subject – ‘Do you just talk to me when you’re lonely and bored’? – where you can feel the anguish in the vocals. The album finishes with an acronym of the album title that finds Felix Walworth repeating Tomberlin’s lines and inner thoughts – ‘We learn to hold ourselves, light your candle, cast your spell’ – with sublime subtlety.
Tomberlin may not know who needs to hear this record but we do – all of you.