Music

Letitia VanSant's 'Circadian' Is a Contemplative Indie Folk Opus (premiere) (album stream)

Photo: Alyssa Stokes / Courtesy of IVPR

With Circadian, indie folk artist Letitia VanSant finds the balance between compassion and fury in communicating her reflections on the world today.

A whole host of worldly reflections swells beneath the fabric of Letitia VanSant's Circadian, releasing tomorrow, 21 February. After emerging onto the Americana scene as a notable, rising voice with her debut album, Gut It to the Studs, the Baltimore singer-songwriter is making a new mark with her sophomore album. Working alongside producer Neilson Hubbard (Caroline Spence, Mary Gauthier), VanSant's Circadian radiantly mirrors her impassioned heart. Delicately and attentively crafted, each song feels like an extension of the crystalline, indie folk-fueled leaf that she turns with her new album. The songs possess a vividness and might that begets artists of her caliber, and they astonish with their forward-moving, straight-shooting direction.

Like other folk greats, VanSant doesn't shy away from politics. Circadian opens with a powerful statement; "You Can't Put My Fire Out" was written by VanSant during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. "I am a survivor of sexual violence from years ago," she says. "It impacted my self-esteem and what I felt like I was capable of in the world. I felt a lot smaller. This song came out of reclaiming my narrative and sense of self-worth."

She goes on to examine the effects that toxic masculinity have on their practitioners in "Tin Man", inspired by listening to an episode of NPR's The Hidden Brain called "The Lonely American Man". She states, "It rang so true that I had to pull over my car because I was crying so hard. Our culture makes it very difficult for men to be emotionally vulnerable. I don't know what it's like to be a man, but I know what it is to be a person who loves one and wants to connect."

Regarding "Most of Our Dreams Don't Come True", VanSant explains, "My generation has gotten so much messaging to reach for the stars and keep trying at all costs. But I think that notion can be taken to a desperate, unhealthy extreme that can leave people profoundly unhappy. There's a time to let things shift, let things go. Allowing ourselves to grieve old dreams can make space to discover new ones."

Inspired by her readings on light pollution, VanSant muses on the titular "Circadian", "The solution is to turn out some of the lights. The challenges of the world feel big and complicated, but I take solace in the idea that some of the answers are to make things simpler."

Elsewhere, "Something Real" is based on the death of Jimmy LaFave. She says, "I never met him, but hearing people sing his songs around the campfire, it was clear that his energy was still moving through the world. I had this moment when my clouds of cynicism parted, and I was overcome with awe."

The legacy of VanSant's father informs the album's final track, "Rising Tide". A Vietnam veteran, he was diagnosed with lung cancer following exposure to Agent Orange. The artist's reflections on the song are cutting, harrowing in its frankness towards the atrocities committed during the war. Her father has thankfully since recovered and is cancer-free.

The songs of which Circadian are comprised are deeply personal and worldly all at once. They reflect a vision of the world as it is, warts and all, informed by VanSant's role as an artistic mind and an activist in a time of division. Circadian rhythms are the natural cycles that occur between wakefulness and rest. The songs of which VanSant's latest album are comprised attest to this idea of balance, sifting between compassion and fury.

Circadian is due to release on 21 February.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.