I never feel the need to review records, but this is such a gorgeous album I would really love a platform to gush about it. This record has really captivated me in a way different to any other this year, and I think Peter Silberman is an amazing gentleman who has crafted a masterpiece.
The album is like a story, with a prologue, an epilogue and recurring themes. It’s beautifully arranged, and Peter has such a beautiful voice that touches my heart. There’s so much power in his trembling vocals, and the lyrics on the album are heartbreakingly touching. From the atmospheric drones of the Prologue, the scene is set with second track Kettering. Peter guides the listener through moving scenes, with the basic premise being that the protagonist is caring for a terminally ill patient, Sylvia, who he cares for but they have such a complicated, troubled relationship. Sylvia picks up where Sylvia (An Introduction) from the New York Hospitals EP left off, with the fuzzy guitar swelling; the trumpets are an absolute delight. The song is epic. The dreams and nightmares Peter sings about stay with you even after you’ve finished listening to the album. When I first heard Sylvia (An Introduction) back in the winter it left me thinking for hours.
Bear has lullaby-esque qualities, carrying on the sweet melody from Sylvia (An Introduction). The characters in the songs have conversations that go back and forth, one saying ‘we’re too old’ only to be met with ‘we’re not old at all‘. You can’t help but feel the power and pain of lyrics like ‘we’re terrified of one another, terrified of what that means‘ and ‘when we get home we’re bigger strangers than we’ve ever been before‘. In Thirteen, Sylvia gains a voice. Sharon Van Etten’s voice. Her gorgeous, haunting, surreal voice. After a couple of minutes of rising, atmospheric sounds, we’re met with a pause. Then, it’s Sylvia’s absolutely heartbreaking plea to her carer: ‘pull me out, pull me out, can’t you stop this all from happening? Close the doors and keep them out.’ Sharon is one of my favourite singers and it’s such a joy to hear her singing here. It’s all silent apart from the odd piano chord and Sharon’s stunning voice. Absolutely beautiful.
Two picks up the pace with some poppy guitar which juxtaposes with the dark, captivating lyrics where the narrator gives insight into Sylvia’s history, the liner notes give a full name to the song: Two, Or, I Would Have Saved Her If I Could. The way Peter sets the scenes, the album really feels like you are there in the songs. Powerful imagery is present throughout the album, in Shiva Peter sings of ‘hundreds of thousands of hospital beds‘. The breaking femurs, scissors, monitors and machines. No album this year has made me feel so involved in the songs. The album is like a book, with chapters, but each chapter flows so well into the next, so seamlessly. Like they don’t exist at all. ‘Now that everyone’s an enemy, my heart sinks.’ The lyrics are so beautiful I want to put them all here. The real killer is ‘Some patients can’t be saved, but that burden’s not on you‘… it’s on him. The album closes with Epilogue, returning to the melody of Sylvia (An Introduction) and Bear. The narrator dreams of Sylvia, or rather, nightmares. She haunts him. She hurts him so much through the course of the album, it’s terrifying. It’s haunting. It’s beautiful.
This record is a masterpiece. It’s like a novel you can listen to. Like when you come away from an epic novel, and you feel the weights and burdens of each character, and even though the book is done, you can’t stop thinking about it and all the things the characters went through. This album is like that. Not only is it a lyrical delight, it’s an instrumental delight. The songs are thickly textured with many intricate details. I can’t recommend this album enough, don’t miss out on this absolute gem.