Hope in the Ebb and Flow of Lena Douglas’s “Friends of the Future”


A calm and consistent, easy and jazz-like, harmonic background functions as the ambient context for lyrics that are rhythmically structured – not in phrases, or in lines, – but rather, like breaths. The words emerge like air being exhaled, slowly and comfortably, but consistently and steadily. We need such music.

When I’m away from the clock, from a schedule that demands the most of every second… when I get to sit on a city bus that’s not too crowded, or walk on a country road, and for that moment all the pressures of time and responsibility fall away… the pace of my existence goes back to the rhythm of breathing.

That’s how “Friends of the Future” by Lena Douglas feels.

Thoughts tumble out – in a natural, rather than a forced, stream of consciousness. There’s a structure, and time does tick predictably on underneath, but time doesn’t control the flow of the lyrics. The words just emerge, and then recede.

The lyrics themselves acknowledge that uncertainty and disappointment will arise, but underlying all of that they see a consistency of relationship, of community, even, that continues.

Lyrical saxophone and soft-muted trumpet lines enter and exit comfortably. Sometimes they feel like echoes of thoughts being mulled over, aligning with the melody line. At other times, they come in more like the ambient sounds that accompany our moments of musing – like the rush of distant (but not angry) traffic in the city, feeling normal and unobtrusive; or like the sound of wind and rustling leaves, maybe birds, or happy dogs, accompanying a walk on a country road.

A set of phrases flows, and then there’s a pause in the words while the music continues. It’s time to inhale, or to watch the tide go out. Then, like an exhalation or a wave, a fresh set of words arrives to lap at our ears a while. We welcome it, hear it, bear witness. When it dissipates, we feel a sense that it isn’t gone, but that it is part of a rhythm of breaths and waves and tides, and there will be a return.

No set of bad days – or good days, for that matter – will cause this underlying ebb and flow to cease. We take comfort in this.

And that is how we become “Friends of the Future.” We know that time goes on. We trust in our community. In the comfortable nest of this present lyrical breathing, we are able to focus on the moment, to relax into now. The mental tumble and jumble of regrets and anxieties fades, as we transition from concerns about the unknown and the uncertain to the known and the constant.

Through that process, the future does not remain a locus of fear or of overwhelming demands, but simply a part of a continuing journey. Therein lies our hope. The tones, swells, and troughs of Melbourne singer-songwriter Lena Douglas’s “Friends of the Future” bring us to a peaceful and soulful harbour, from which we can gain the energy and confidence to venture forth once more.


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