Admittedly, I have significantly less of those nostalgic summer feelings than I usually do at this time of year. As someone who vehemently hates change, the feeling of something ending usually crashes down on me as September begins, leaving me to fondly look back on and re-imagine the days of summer leisure. With our sudden quarantine-induced removal from the world in early March stunting even the seasons, it has felt difficult to reminisce about the end of something that never even truly started.
Listening to Isobel Campbell’s newest song, “Together”, though, I finally found myself transported to the days of summers past. The easy quality to her voice and unmistakable air of simplicity managed to spark a glimmer of that contented summer feeling that has largely escaped me this year. The gentle, guitar-driven arrangement and quiet vocals have an almost meditative quality, instantly bringing your heart rate down and producing a calming effect.
Despite the relaxing effect that the arrangement produces though, her lyrics reveal a more intense subject matter. She describes the gravitational pull of a relationship in which the other person has become the center of her universe. The intensity of the lyrics is paired perfectly with the lightness of the arrangement, providing a compelling contrast that reaches beyond the initial listen. With her steady vocals that stay even and consistent throughout, there is an air of reassuring consistency underlying the message.
“Time to realize / Everywhere I go / It’s true / And we’ve both been through so much together / Everywhere I go / It’s you”
Perhaps my favorite line, it is easy to see how the lyrics contain a softened fervor. Not unlike what we’ve encountered in the past with artists like The Smiths, Campbell shows the same ability to transform an inherently deep and driving subject matter into something more airy and engaging through careful manipulation of arrangement. There is something so satisfying about a powerful and meaningful message delivered with sincerity, stripped of frills and burdens to weight it down.
“Drive or take a plane / Thrive or go insane / All washed down the drain / No words to explain / Everywhere I go / It’s you”
The power of these lines is surprisingly enhanced, not diminished, by her more factual tone. The acceptance of her situation is refreshing, sidestepping the nitty-gritty in favor of the undeniable reality. The bond she details is strong and clear, much like her lyrical style. Continuously circling back to “Everywhere I go / It’s you”, the heart of her message is gently driven home again and again, never straying from its purpose.
Mixing reserve and strength, intensity and light, Campbell has created an understated force with “Together”. Although it’s the relaxing, summery feel that draws your closer, it’s the powerful reserve that will capture your interest and compel you to truly listen to her words.