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Texas is known as the state where everything is bigger. The cars are big. The food portions are enormous, and the flavors are big and bold. It is home to one of the largest stadiums in the world. The music, too, is louder and more boisterous. Then how do you explain the rise in artists who are creating innovative indie rock that rely on subtly to produce a cathartic effect? It’s a fascinating question to understand why bands such as Dana Falconberry & Medicine Bow are releasing albums like From the Forest Came the Fire, which, in the words of an acquaintance, “reward patience and attention.”
Unlike most things in Texas, From the Forest Came the Fire isn’t an album that gets in your face; however, like many things in the Lone Star State it is bold and beautiful. But most of all, the album is ambitious. Like a modern-day Aesop, Falconberry has created her own mythical world that is founded in today’s realities. Within each song and throughout the album, she seamlessly weaves between different characters, where at times she is at the center and other moments a bird, a mountain, a tree, or a lunar being is the protagonist. In utilizing this multi-character approach, Falconberry is able to examine humanity’s relationship with its surroundings, specifically nature, and how different forces collide and the potential devastation that could result.
On the stunning “Dolomite”, for instance, the Austin-based artist paints a fairy tale of new life emerging from the rugged Italian landscape and the hope it brings. The song resonates with the vivid balladry of Damien Jurado, but instead of tackling subjects through a spiritual lens, Falconberry takes an existential approach. The dreamy “Cormorant” is like something out of a Nordic folktale, where the separation between humanity and nature is nonexistent.
The companion songs “Oxheart” and “Leona” are absolutely beautiful. The former focuses on the changing of the day, where only moonlight pierces the black sky and the awakening sun signals a new day. It is in such simplicity can beauty be found. Even in the solitude of the wilderness, one still longs for companionship. The cinematic build in “Leona” is fantastic, echoing the quiet cathartic nature of fellow Austin band Reservations. The human perspective continues with the Joan Baez-esque, contemplative “Powerlines”, where Falconberry begins to question what we, as humans, have done to the world that we live in. Trees are replaced by powerlines, the moonlight by street lamps, and trails by paved roads.
Beauty, though, isn’t far away. Like the places and things sung about on From the Forest Came the Fire, it only takes a short journey to realize that the world is full of wonderful things, but the question become are we willing to take this journey that Dana Falconberry & Medicine Bow have set out for us or stay within the comforts of the cement walls? If you give this stunning album a chance, you’ll find your answer.
In addition to Dana Falconberry, Medicine Bow are Gina Dvorak, Karla Manzur, Matthew Shepherd, Christopher Cox, and Lindsey Verril. From the Forest Came the Fire is out now via Modern Outsider.
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