Published Jul 29, 2020Country music has always been a genre where virtuosos in expressing heartbreak and loss painstakingly present their emotional strife for the whole world to listen and criticize. With stakes that high, it's no wonder the genre has gifted the world with some of the greatest songwriters of all time. On her debut EP, Montreal-based singer-songwriter Lauren Spear, also known as Le Ren, lives up to the standards set by her country and folk idols.
Drifting somewhere between the two genres, Morning & Melancholia pays homage to the sounds of a bygone era for both genres, all the while maintaining a secure level of contemporary finesse and approach to crafting songs. Tracks utilize clean chord progressions over an acoustic guitar and feature enough diversity in the production to make each piano line, slide guitar, or synth seem astonishingly intentional.
Written in the wake of her ex-boyfriend's death, the songs on Morning & Melancholia deal with themes of solitude, memory, and redefining identity in the aftermath of a catastrophe. The poignancy of Spear's songwriting displays her ability to reach the sentiment of the song without flourishes. Rarely do you find metaphors to dissect or clumsy statements to critique — her lyrics are candid and unequivocal. "I fell in love at the sight of you / I was taken so overcome." sings Spear on the opener "Love Can't Be the Only Reason to Stay." She continues, "I gave you all, I got lost in you / Didn't see till it all came undone." Without wasting a single word, phrase, or syllable, Spear has crafted a collection of four songs written with enough emotional intelligence to make Joni Mitchell weep.
On one of the EP's best tracks, "If I Had Wings," Spear laments the futility of ever trying to see her loved one again. "If there was a God he'd find it in his heart to let you stay," sings Spear before proudly proclaiming, "If I had wings, yeah, I'd be heaven bound / So I could see your face once more." Her quivering vocals drift effortlessly over the minimalist strumming of an acoustic guitar and a euphoric slide guitar.
On Morning & Melancholia, Le Ren deftly showcases her songwriting and ability to capture emotional sorrow while displaying powerful yet subdued instrumentation. Le Ren is no stranger to misery, but the catharsis found in each track makes it clear that for her, there is still beauty found in life's most painful moments. (Royal Mountain Records)