With languid blues, alt-country, folksy indie rock and Americana, plus a tagline of “We play sad songs to make you feel better,” you could know for certain I was going to be all over this one. Talking Under Water, only in existence since last summer, released a powerhouse of a debut EP back in December titled Tossing & Turning. It’s a beautiful collection of four songs that celebrate pain, anguish, yearning and disillusionment, but in an uplifting way with robust musicianship, vocals that ache with vulnerability and soaring harmonies. It was recorded by their drummer Stephen Roessner (who also happens to be a Grammy Award winning engineer).
Hailing from Rochester, New York, the quartet began with lead singer and pianist Dave Chisholm writing pop songs at home. He then gathered together guitarist Alex Patrick, cellist Elise Hughey and drummer Roessner, who complement his heartfelt laments with exquisite grace. The EP begins with a full-on blues lament that begins slow and sexy and, with the help of pounding piano, searing guitar, driving percussion and soaring harmonies, builds to a fury and then drops down again, with that somber cello sealing the deal. This rhythm repeats a few times, creating a real bipolar stunner.
As the band explains it, “This is a song about wanting, being stuck in a place where you want to be with someone, but for whatever reason — fear, self-doubt, prior commitments — you can’t connect with them.” The video, directed by Will Graver, depicts an unrequieted love triangle, inner dialogue and imagined conversations.
From there, the band explores other musical styles that give the EP a well-rounded and expansive feel for a mere four songs. The music weaves itself beautifully around the sad subject matter, drawing the listener in to the storyteller’s experience and emotions.
The sun still sets at the end of a perfect day
And there’s always a frown after a perfect smile.
Even the best bottles, they still dry out
And heaven gets old after awhile.
– The Sun Sets
“I’ve never been much of a storyteller.
What’s the point? They always end the same.
However hard they try, the characters all die.
All they do is rearrange their names.
We’re all players in this fairy tale penned by that sadistic man above.
Well, he ran me into you,
There was nothin’ you or I could do.
Now we’ve been cursed with this love.”
– Never Been
Thanks, man. And actually, I was just about to say that “Never Been” is the rollicking upbeat honky-tonk track. But there’s still that cello. Damn that beautiful, mournful cello.
The second EP from Talking Under Water is due out in the spring. If you live in or around Rochester, New York, and you’d like to experience Talking Under Water in person, you’re in luck. They’re performing at a place called Press Coffee Co. on Monday, March 9.