Year after year, since the teenage heartaches of high school, I have found music to be that bridge between the agony of loneliness and rediscovering the joy of independence. But a decade into knowing just how debilitating heartsickness can be, it now takes a special kind of music to bring me back from the bottom. Back in the day, it was "old" Coldplay, Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head, X&Y, and I thought they were destined to be my forever bittersweet band with Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. The perfect blend of melancholy despair, grand instrumental swells, bright outlooks, and hopeless romanticism - bundled into a British accent. But I strayed from Coldplay after 2008, with an abundance of new music in college and the real world, right at my fingertips. And most recently, in moments when I "Can't Even," I've found myself turning to Black Books for my soundtrack to that relentless need for inner resolution.
It's the start of the album, however, that matches up most closely with the early Coldplay style, but not quite one song. When it breaks on, "Say the words and cut me lose, no I came here just for you," Black Books is making it clear that this will be an emotional journey, with them and with yourself. It's not a typical breakup album, but it will serve as one. It's more about that thing called life - what happens when you're planning for something else - except it's about what happens when you're feeling for something else. It's dramatic in the most moving of ways, as it grabs your hand and runs, pulling you towards the center of your soul and saying, "Look - this is the best view yet."
And it wouldn't be one of the best albums we'll see all year if it didn't provide that perfect mix of positive and uplifting in the middle of the melancholy. "Golden OK" and "Sade" line up a beautiful platform that slowly guides into the epic sadness of "Crybaby," the hope and denial in "Best in You," and the sassy but composed "Really Nice to See You." On a through listen, the last dip into "It Could Be Better" (if it's not obvious in track title) returns to heartsickness, followed by the gorgeous and tear-inducing "Heaven Help Us." Finally, "Knew That I Would" is like a signal of daybreak, the dawn after a rough night. The joy in the end of this tune is spilling over, coming to terms with "I guess I'll let you go."
In a way, this album by Black Books is both a beginning and an end. It has gotten me through yet another heartbreak, another "what if?" and "why not?" Another ending on lack of fault. It's not for trying. But some things will end and others won't. It's knowing that a new chance will always come around, just like another amazing album such as this, that gives me an odd hope for the future.
So here's to knowing that some day, I'll end up in Austin mid-March for SXSW. Someday I'll also see Black Books live. And maybe someday, I'll think of their music as something I was able to share with someone else.