When you think of an album about grief, you’re probably imagining something somber and haunting. Upstate NY singer-songwriter Al Olender knows grief isn’t nearly that simple, or that linear.
Olender’s debut full-length album, Easy Crier, was released today May 13th.
The album opens with “All I Do Is Watch TV,” somewhat spritely in tone, laying the framework for the spirit of the songs to come. “All I need is 80 summers to get my shit together,” Olender muses amid scenes of 2am true crime binges and buying drinks just to watch them spill. There’s a combination of numbness and detachment that reflects the experiences of early grief.
The second track is named after the album’s subject: “Keith.” Olender’s late brother. This sudden loss is the catalyst for these songs, and in their cultivation Olender dives into vulnerability with her heart set on honest reflection. The presence of strong acoustic strums and powerful drums capture a sense of inner-chaos and heartbreak as Olender’s vocals escalate into a gentle frenzy. She then folds into herself in “Liar, Liar” as she opens herself up to memory and shifts her gaze onto her own pain.
Based in Kingston, New York, Olender is setting out on her first solo tour with this debut, kicking off in the Hudson Valley before traveling through New England and down to Georgia. With each night her songs will undoubtedly touch the heart of anyone who has experienced loss. Collectively, they are a tender rumination on the complexity of grief – the joy of memory, the pain of loneliness, and the necessity of self-actualization.
Easy Crier was recorded at The Church in Harlemville, New York, with producer-engineer James Felice of the Felice Brothers. Musical contributions come from Felice on accordion and piano, Jesske Hume on bass and synths, William Lawrence on drums and guitar, Ian Felice on guitar, and Alejandro Leon on bass. One of the many highlights of the album is Olender’s vocal surety. This may be her first album, but her vocals bring a confidence that denotes a veteran. It is, perhaps, in large part the result of her unflinching commitment to her own honesty.
Relatable in its quirks and in its sincerity, the album grows through various phases of self-observation, reverie, and even celebration before rounding itself out. With lines like “show me how to dance until my heart goes numb” and “close your eyes, let’s fall in love,” “The Age” sounds like a joyful burst of youthful adventure. The following track, the album’s last, is the quiet and tender-hearted “Mean” in which Olender laments, “I’m older than my older brother and I’m growing up alone.”
Indeed, grief is not linear, and neither is this album. While Olender refuses to gloss over the harrowing sadness of her experience, neither does she dwell in murky melancholy any longer than to honor and bear witness to hear feelings. What results is an album that will undoubtedly serve as a companion to anyone who has experienced loss. Empathetically and with musical aplomb, Olender’s Easy Crier will comfort those on a journey of owning their experiences and getting to know their innermost selves, through the joy, the pain, and inevitably through the tears.
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Article: Casee Marie
Cover Image: CJ Harvey