Photo: Hillary Dawson / Courtesy of Lucky Bird Media

Esmé Patterson Goes Dream Pop on ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’

Working with indie pop's Tennis, There Will Come Soft Rains moves Esmé Patterson away from her folk music proclivities towards a more dream-pop vibe, and uses the album to musically capture the emotionally unspeakable.

There Will Come Soft Rains
Esmé Patterson
6 March 2020

Esmé Patterson is constantly evolving her sound. Her recent release from BMG, There Will Come Soft Rains, finds the mercurial artist shifting once again. Working with indie-pop duo Tennis, the album moves Patterson away from her folk music proclivities as she now shifts her compass towards a more dream-pop vibe. There Will Come Soft Rains is instrumentally balanced and isn’t burdened by stylistic overproduction. Patterson’s music and lyrics are stark, revealing the emotion associated with heartache. She uses There Will Come Soft Rains to capture the emotionally unspeakable musically. The depiction of turmoil can be a cliche, and in the hands of other artists, it is certainly a banality. But Patterson identifies emotionality as a cycle, thereby adroitly balancing struggle and growth.

Patterson named the album after Ray Bradbury’s tale of the same title. In this story, found in The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury sees creation and destruction as a cycle, a theme Patterson utilizes. Whereas Bradbury portrays the cycle playing out in all segments of life, Patterson believes it is emblematic of emotion, especially love and heartache. “Light in Your Window” plays with the contradictory need to relive memories while also distancing oneself from those experiences. A post-breakup song, the lyrics convey the feeling of loss connected to bygone love. The transformation of love to sadness and sadness to love defines There Will Come Soft Rains.

“What to Do” and “Fools Gold” illustrates the appeal of new love but also the hesitation with revisiting pain. The latter finds Patterson emotionally reemerging regardless of the trepidation demarcated in “What to Do”. She is empathic when she sings, “Yeah sure there’s old love, there’s new love / Hey baby I’ve known bad love but I’ve / Known good love too, and All love is true love!” Patterson rejects bitterness and acknowledges that closing herself off will not guarantee happiness. As Bradbury reminds readers, and Patterson echoes, it takes courage to restart, but it is ultimately a worthwhile endeavor.

Trusting to love again is affirmed in “Shelby Tell Me Everything“. Here Patterson heightens the album’s illusionary and romantic feel. The opening instrumental moments palpitate, echoing a nervous heartbeat. As Patterson’s vocals blend in with the synths, the track becomes more ebullient, a reflection of the giddiness caused by love. Patterson’s tenderness is noticeable, specifically when she sings, “Go on and tell me anything that you want! / Well, just make sure the story’s long ’cause / I’ve been dreaming of your blue eyes…” The sentiment is revisited in “Take It Easy” and “Momento”. These tracks construct love as fleeting but sweeping in its impact. Patterson is methodical: the emotion is measured without delving into purple prose. The album ends with “Over and Over”, a track demonstrating the actuality of emotional rebuilding. Using an idiom as the track’s title reestablishes Patterson’s overarching motif while returning the artist to a place where she can love again.

To move through the emotional cycle requires a process, and for Patterson, it’s found in loneliness. In “Sleeping Around”, Patterson admits she’s “no good at being alone sometimes” while “All Mine” encircles the despondency stemming from loneliness. The tracks are raw. “All Mine” is poignant as Patterson sings against a stark piano. She repeats, “I’m just fine / Being all mine”, but this only comes after the non-lexical vocables create a weeping effect. The track represents the battle between the intellectual and emotional: she can tell herself that recovery is imminent, but it’s difficult to feel and visualize when mired by pain. Whereas Bradbury warned of man’s hubris, Patterson uses There Will Come Soft Rains to admonish extensive self-protection.

But there’s hope: she will reclaim her ardor, “when all is quiet / I can see a new color”. And that new color renders Patterson’s album as visceral and deeply moving. She purposely holds space for the dark moments and uses There Will Come Soft Rains to pinprick the shadow with light.

RATING 7 / 10