TOMBERLIN – ” i don’t know who needs to hear this… “

Posted: January 10, 2023 in MUSIC

In recent years, there’s been an influx of musicians embracing minimalism. Often, the lack of excess can lead to these songs being dismissively tagged as “sad,” particularly if the artist dares to fill that space with any emotion at all. One of the finest practitioners of this sparse musicality is Sarah Beth Tomberlin, who performs under her surname. Her 2018 debut album “At Weddings” drew comparisons to ambient icons like Grouper and staples of contemporary indie like Julien Baker. Her music sits at the intersection of these artists’ in both sound and subject. “At Weddings” dealt with Tomberlin’s internal conflict, having left her home and religion behind. Raised in rural Illinois as a pastor’s kid, she uprooted to Louisville, where the bulk of “At Weddings” came to fruition. Since then, she’s moved to New York and released an EP called Projections in 2020. Projections, produced with Alex G, saw Tomberlin’s arrangements fill out—several of its tracks played with percussion, something rarely found on her debut.

The natural next step was for her to follow in the footsteps of Baker, who began making hollow, devastating music before gradually fleshing out her band. And she did, sort of. Her new album, “i don’t know who needs to hear this…” is grander than anything she’s done before, but rarely does it feel like a departure. Recorded in Brooklyn with producer Philip Weinrobe, known for his work with Adrienne Lenker and Buck Meek, the record features contributions from Shahzad Islamly and Told Slant’s Felix Walworth.

Where “At Weddings” was written without a goal in mind and carries that homespun air, the deliberateness of the songs on “idkwntht” is palpable. At the record’s heart is Tomberlin simultaneously embracing self-love and acceptance (“born again runner”), and taking love away from toxic influences (“collect caller”), no matter how difficult both acts may be.

Results aren’t the point; it is simply the act of trying and holding space for one’s emotions that counts.

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