Oleander opens with a promise that reads like never-ending love but sounds more like resignation, like haunting. On each track Carey establishes a narrow range and explores every nuance of it, suggesting to be with another is only ever a struggle to give a lot and get a little. Occasionally, she implodes in spectacular fashion: on 'Willow', it’s shrill and desperate. On 'Madness', it’s as a force of nature. Every song illuminates a new peril of heartbreak, adding up to a statement that even in something as final as a loss, nothing is ever certain.
Carey’s lyrics are bound to pastoral imagery: desolate rural landscapes, furious and unforgiving storms. The rhythms of the Earth are the rhythms of life itself and even survival isn’t guaranteed. For the most part, Carey’s sense of survival isn’t existential but romantic. Relationships punish their participants like natural disasters. There is only enduring, learning to wear the scars, or not. At times, Carey positions herself as the one it’s happening to. At others, she dictates the terms of destruction. At others, she wrestles somewhere between. Crase and Fraser-Barbour lock into each other for rhythms that sway woozy and hypnotic on one song, fierce and invigorated on the next. Some of these songs have been in production for years. It’s this sense for the album and each other that makes every track feel as deliberate as it is intuitive.
Refined over years of songwriting, each song stands on its own as a precise incision into moments of loss. But the album as a whole occupies every inch of emotional space, painting a vivid and terrifying portrait of life’s drama. Nearly five years after the release of their first album, Oleander once again shows Fair Maiden are attuned to the human heart.
Release: Hysterical Records, March 22nd, 2019
Words: Future Popes