September 5, 2018 | by Jocelyn Hoppa [photo by: Olof Grind]
I put the proverbial needle down on Tank Town — the recently released debut album from Many Voices Speak — on the day my dog died. Not after, but before that fateful trip to the vet, as she laid on a blanket next to me in my office and I kept realizing whatever was wrong with her (she’d shown no signs of serious health issues prior to this) was getting progressively worse.
Tank Town played on repeat that day. Knowing my dog’s taste in music, she seemed soothed as it played, could ease herself and rest a little. Because of this, there’s no way I can look at this record with any sort of real objectivity to what I think the lyrics might mean in actuality, only in the context of how I heard it… and keep hearing it.
It would be another week (or two?) before I sat down to listen to this record again as I made an attempt to pick up where I left off in life. Sudden, profound loss is such a strange thing, because time becomes amplified in its meaninglessness and mysteriousness. Everything happened so fast, and then, just as suddenly, all that’s left is a dull and silent void to hang heavy in.
Many Voices Speak easily mainlined itself directly into a particular feeling I was inhabiting — not so much in a depressing Elliott Smith way, but more so in a surreal, tender, staring into the middle distance way. That feeling of hovering above yourself, out of time. Truths that must be faced, but having no idea what day it is or where you put your wallet. All the while the music drifts, glides, wafts, and levitates, punctuated with lyrical moments of late-harvest, honest acceptance.
If you read about Many Voices Speak elsewhere you’ll learn that the music is dream-like, airy, and has that slowed-down, 80s ambient, we’re-having-a-moment-here cinematic quality. These are all apt descriptions easily applied to singer/songwriter Matilda Mård’s gauzy, gentle vocals and producer Petter Nygårdh’s moving arrangements. Beyond that though, there’s something deep going on underneath the dream-pop canopy they weaved together.
“Turn your thoughts of her, whatever occurred, there’s more beginnings,” the first line from leading title track “Tank Town” was one of the more hopeful lines that pierced through the vacuum of those otherwise still-new, grief-stricken moments. (And obviously you don’t need to experience sudden, profound loss to identify with such a sentiment, or any sentiments on this record, which I hope goes without saying.)
From the press materials, Mård says of the album: “Tank Town is a metaphor for the mental state that runs through the songs of the album. The perspective is more or less untethered from the ‘now’ and instead focused on what has been and what’s about to happen.”
She says of the album’s second track, “I Saw You,” that the song is “about unshared sorrow and how I’ve experienced it affecting the self-image… it’s [not] a story from the center of the experience, it [is] from the outside of one. There’s a certain alienation about getting stuck in the past, while becoming an observer of your actual reality.”
Sometimes these types of bedroom, late-night records can, at first pass, be glossed over in terms of finding the context or emotive groove only revealed with repeat listens. With the kind of listening where you actually stop and pay attention. With time. Mård also seems willing to put the appropriate amount of time into her craft, saying in a recent interview if she only put in part of the time it would only put certain aspects of being a musician further down the road.
She is now making her way down that road, reaching sad sacks such as myself. This is a record laced in love and loss (mostly of the romantic variety, I imagine, but our hearts and heads go where they want to... many voices do speak), and the conversations had with oneself when trying to learn and cope from outside of our most heartfelt/heartbreaking experiences.
I’ve always said I don’t know if I found my dog, or she found me, and I feel exactly the same way about this record. I am in tank town, where each dawn there is rising only to realize my quality of life, albeit just for now, is very obviously altered for the worse. There was one million good reasons not to press play or pursue this album any further. But it stuck to me, crawled inside of me, and I know, in this moment, I’m better with Tank Town than apart.
The majority of the album was written and recorded in the village outside of Avesta, Sweden where Mård currently resides. Many Voices Speak released a few singles and a three-track EP Away for All Time, where the outtake of a well-fitting, sweet rendition of the classic “Blue Moon” was also released as a single.
You can purchase Tank Town at their Bandcamp page (release on August 31, 2018), and listen to it all of the usual ways. But first, please enjoy these choice tracks for a taste.
“Necessaries” (I mean, c’mon…)