I don’t know if you’ve looked at the news lately, dear reader, but it’s entirely possible the world is coming to an end. Between the threats of nuclear war, totalitarianism, and climate change, there’s more than enough reason to think that we’re not going to make it. These feelings of instability and uneasiness have begun to seep into the musical and artistic landscapes, with varying degrees of success. Corey Kilgannon took a step in this direction on his latest effort, also with varying degrees of success.
The high points of As Above, So Below are really high. Kilgannon blends the warbling folk sound of a band like Mumford and Sons with the political consciousness of a Father John Misty. The title track has a bouncing melody that I could listen to on loop for hours. There’s no question, Kilgannon is an extremely talented musician. He’s also seems a little unsure at times.
Which makes sense.
On the title track of her latest record Norman Fucking Rockwell, Lana Del Rey croons, “Your poetry’s bad, and you blame the news.” I can’t help but think of these words as I listen to As Above, So Below. I don’t intend this as a dig on Kilgannon’s lyricism. His songs are well crafted from top to bottom, but what is apparent about Kilgannon’s work is that it is inextricable from the news cycle. At its worst, this album feels a bit like a CNN segment put to music. Most of the songs on this record are jaded with a bit of wistfulness for yesteryear, with takes that aren’t fully original. But they are absolutely earnest.
“Rich blonde girls drink lattes and take trips to countries for photos with orphans to show everybody, you don’t need salvation if you have enough money.”
At its best, though, the album soars. The true creative high point is “Anthem.” Kilgannon interpolates “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a surprising and effective critical move.
“If we lay down our guns, loss of freedom for love, could a garden still grow in a singe-cornered sun?”
Kilgannon asks if it’s even possible for our country to thrive after all that we’ve done to destroy ourselves (and each other). I like this record, and Kilgannon, the best when it’s operating on this broader plan of existential dread.
It’s a back and forth experience. “The Oasis” offers a hopeful vision of an alternate future where people of all creeds can coexist peacefully. But then As Above, So Below immediately reverses that feeling and dives back into cynicism. These songs all work well individually. As a collected work, they flit back and forth.
Which, again, makes sense.
We live in a very confusing time. So I suppose it’s appropriate that an album so heavily influenced by the political climate is a little unsure of where it stands. Yes, in a world of complete chaos, it would have been nice to have heard an album that did the work of sorting through some of the noise for me – but maybe that’s the point. Things are messy and loud right now. Regardless, there’s no denying that Kilgannon is capable of serious cleverness. In the future, I’d love to see him produce more tracks like “Anthem.” And hey, if the message gets through, maybe we can live in a world like what he depicts in “The Oasis,” too.