Home Song Reviews Get All Hemmed Up in “Hem” by The Western Den

Get All Hemmed Up in “Hem” by The Western Den

by Bailey Johnk

When some people hear the word “collaboration”, they immediately panic or their excitement fades away. I’d like to think this is most often in the school setting. I mean, who ever jumped for joy when your teacher said “group project”?

Some people are just lone wolves. Some people have great ideas and set ways with which they’ve completed projects for years. Bringing in outsiders only inhibits their creative process. Others thrive with the extra hands; more partners provide more ways to problem solve and better the end product.

Collaboration is often a big part of music. Some of our favorite songs like “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “Bye Bye Bye,” and “Viva La Vida” would have never been written had it not been for the collaboration of bands. I think the key to a good collaboration is picking the right person. It has to be someone who has the same values but will bring something new to the table. One has to bring the sugar, the other has to bring the spice. The two members of The Western Den brought both and made everything nice.

The Western Den, an indie alternative duo from Boston, MA, is made up of two singer- songwriters/musical soulmates, Deni Hlavinka and Chris West. Hlavinka was just a small town pianist from Virginia. West was a guitar player from Bermuda. It wasn’t until Hlavinka posted a song idea on a college forum that the two connected. West took that idea, finished the song, and sent it back the day after. They decided to meet in person and found that they bonded over more than just music. Though they never really discussed forming a band together seven years ago, it just happened and they haven’t looked back since.

They released three EPs, two in 2013 and one in 2015, all while collaborating over a long distance. While these three projects were completed and released at a fast pace, the duo decided to slow down for their first full length album titled “A Light Left On”. Two years and six months in the making, this new collection of songs break their folk boundaries. The melodies and tunes are more complex, including more orchestral music, all while maintaining their staple harmonies, sweet and tender. This album is very much a coming of age story; how does one find a purpose or a definition in a world full of ideas? It’s about an artist wanting to leave their mark on the world. “Hem” is just one piece of this journey.

“Hem” is very vulnerable, lyrically and musically. The lyrics delve deep into the contradictory emotions one can have about their life and love – how what we feel doesn’t always make sense. The verses are calm and collected: just a guitar strumming a note or two, an isolated vocal, trembling at certain moments. But you feel this sort of energy pushing it, the guitar building, the drumsticks picking up. It’s pushing, like the singer wants to escape the “I’m okay” facade. And then the chorus breaks out: drums, piano, guitar, even horns at times.

That’s the bottle of emotion bursting, the truth coming out.

It’s a really cool musical release they’ve created here.

Found me on a fixed dream,

hanging by a fixed seam.

Is there anybody hanging with me?

This person has had their eyes set definitely on one dream, and though they are only hanging on by a thread, it seems secure enough for them.

But they wonder if they are alone in this.

Hemmed up waiting, all still waiting.

Let the water wade in past the tide,

be gracious. Rain falls invariably in line.

“Hemmed”, in this sense, means to be restricted. This person is stuck, cannot move, just waiting for something to happen. They are letting things happen as they will, they’re going with the flow. Though this waiting can be agony, they must remain grateful and remember that rain always falls the same. These things are to be expected.

If you’re a thread, I’m a sharp knife,

always cutting loose ties.

It’s habitual, akin to repeat.

Though they seem to have no control in their dreams, they practice too much control in their relationships. They often cut those they love off, almost like they are scared of commitment. This is not a one time offense. This happens over and over again.

Hemmed up waiting, all still waiting.

A solder too decayed to gratify,

your hands expecting to be invariably in mine.

They are still stuck waiting like a decaying solder. A solder is something that hold two metals together, something that binds and unites. But it’s decaying, meaning it can no longer hold things together. This is referring to their love life. They are too damaged to hold a relationship together, meanwhile their partner thinks they will always be together.

There’s a certain kind of love I need.

All intently breathing; what a pretty little homily.

If only it would keep me.

The typical love people show does not necessarily work for them. They need something freer, something more happy to just be, to just exist. No pressure. Most relationships are made up of the same words and sentiments, almost like a rehearsed sermon. But this is not enough to make them stay.

I’ve been swimming in salts

just to feel my blood burning again,

but the stinging rings cold.

An idle moan, these eyes don’t know

that I don’t know.

Salts often burn. This person has been putting themselves through brain just to prove they are alive, they have the ability to feel. But even then, they feel nothing. Everyone expects them to have it together, to know who they are or where they are going. But they don’t.

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