A Review by Mathew Price
Lorelei was written by singer-songwriter and native of Warsaw, Indiana Andrew Morris and features a predominantly acoustic set of 10 original tracks. Though first impressions indicate a particularly “lo-fi” and amateurish recording process, this is by no means a negative factor when listening to the album as a whole. The opening track, “Nepenthe”, launches the album with a haunting instrumental melody that fades slowly in and out, creating a hazy dream-like atmosphere synonymous with the legend of its Mythological namesake. The Nepenthe of the ancient Greek fable was an elixir that intentionally distorts and erases memories, required when desperation and depression transform previously happy memories to bitterness. This opening track song provides an integral insight towards the mindset of Andrew Morris during the creation of this album, of the personal and emotional demons he would confront following the end of a very demanding and serious relationship. The opening track acts as a precursor for the rest of the album, allowing the listener to understand that even though the tracks that would follow portray a wide plethora of different and complex emotions and experiences, Andrew would willingly erase them all had he the opportunity to sip on the mythological Nepenthe.
I first met Andrew as a foreign exchange student in 2009. I had by chance been allowed to undertake a degree that let me have the opportunity to study and live in the United States for a year. I could possibly have gone to UC Berkeley, Penn State, UMass, Miami…yet I ended up in Bloomington Indiana, but would have one of the best years of my life if only because of the great friendships I would forge with the residents of “Dewey” in Wright Quad. Andrew lived opposite me and was is perhaps unaware of the fact that he was really the first person to reach out towards me in friendship, to include me, a shy and nervous Brit in my 3rd year of study, into the group of predominantly American Freshmen from the Corn Belt. My first impressions of Andrew Morris as a person struck me as having possession of a creative and intellectual mind, which seemingly came naturally to him. It was common to hear him play his acoustic guitar, with such ease and understanding of the instrument that I remember once asking him why and how he had learned to play the way he did, his response was along the lines of “if you grew up where I did, all you had to do half the time was play the guitar”. His proficiency on the Acoustic guitar allowed Andrew to further explore his musical capabilities and would create songs that were both lyrically and musically intricate. The catalyst behind Lorelei, however unfortunate, lay in the fractured break-up of his long term, long distance relationship and without revealing too much personal information, was Andrew’s first and most engrossing to date. As many first relationships are, the added element of long distance created a stronger sense of attachment and responsibility due to the nature and everyday commitment required to maintain their connection. As with any relationship, trust and loyalty to each other became dominant attributes throughout their tenure, and whether willingly or not, this loyalty would be tested by both Andrew and his girlfriend in the form of local temptation. The complexity of their relationship would generate such a multi-faceted and turbulent array of emotions, ranging from possessing a remarkable sense of unity, maintaining unique and engaging conversations, and having a significant personal investment, towards the utter hopelessness, stress and anxiety that stems from continuing a relationship that in it’s very being denies you the simple act of holding your lovers’ hand. This album serves as a cathartic release for Andrew, in a way that even if it would only make him feel the tiniest bit better, he needed to get what was pulsating through his creative mind down on paper.
The second track off the album is also the title track, “Lorelei”, making use of Andrew’s knowledge of German literature and geography to associate the Legend of the German Author Clemens Brentano’s Lore-Lay, essentially an enchanting female that lures men to their demise. The lyrics are the prevailing factor within this song, portraying Andrew’s belief of how both he and his girlfriend were in effect acting as each other’s “Lorelei”. The chord progression is surprisingly upbeat for what is fundamentally a song about being unable to move on and regret and leads nicely into the following track “Lying next to you”.
This song focuses primarily upon the anger and confusion that surrounds the loss of certain relationship habits following a break up. He touches on how having been involved in relationships we are all likely to create certain behaviours, expectations, that upon breaking up completely affects day to day living. It focuses upon how he would have to concede being unable to continue and accept the fact those said habits were gone from his life, only for them to be resurrected when his former partner meets someone new. The vocals in this track are perhaps the best indicator of the anger present throughout the song, even though the chorus is upbeat and dare I say it, poppy.
Following this track is “Waiting on You”, which like the previous two songs are very lyrics intensive, subordinating the guitar to a secondary role throughout the song. A steady beat and simple chord progression allow the listener to instead focus on the story, which in itself concentrates on the helplessness and desperation of the break-up, and his naive desire for a resolution, for closure. In complete contrast to “Waiting on You”, the next song “Woman from Argentina” takes on a more confrontational and perhaps even spiteful message.
The story focuses upon a “what may have been” temptation Andrew experienced when meeting an Argentine student at University. It focuses upon the internal conflict Andrew possessed having immediately created a bond, having a mutual attraction that was fresh, exciting and new, while having to deal with the emotions of guilt and anger. He would have to give up his Woman from Argentina, yet the ironic, bittersweet truth that he was unaware of, was that while he was having such an internal conflict, his girlfriend was, in the lyrics “had her ass cupped by another man” to Andrew’s ignorance. It represents the anger that he had for being double-crossed, of how he could have explored a new relationship with someone but resisted, which is evidenced musically in the heavy and brutal way Andrew plays the guitar during the Chorus.
The next song “Don’t Wanna Wake Up”, though at times slightly out of tune vocally, summarises in a brief 2:46 the tribulations and hardships of maintaining a long distance relationship. It touches upon the emotional outpouring of sadness when having to “wake up alone”, and the anger present in response to the prevailing powerlessness each partner felt. It also address the subjects of local temptation, the stress and tension the long distance would put on each person in the relationship, and that somehow even when having a committed partner, in reality, they were still forcibly alone.
As if a response to “Don’t Wanna Wake Up”, the following song “The Passion” seeks to distance Andrew from the human element of responsibility in the downfall of their relationship. Having been created during the peak of his depression, “The Passion” confronts the notion that even when surrounded by his loving family and friends, his saviour must come from some sort of higher power. Whether or not Andrew is overtly religious is unnecessary, as the song serves as more of a desperate plea for some sort of resolve, that if he were to act as much like Jesus as he could it would somehow make the situation easier to cope with. If any track from Lorelei were to be the signature piece, it would be this, as it possesses a very catchy riff and chord progression and is easy to listen to. Andrew’s vocals are without attempting to sound cliché, are very raw and emotive, hitting you hard within the first few seconds of the song.
In direct contrast, and perhaps intentionally, the following song is a very poignant and slow track named “Elegy for a Loved one”. Like many of the songs from Lorelei, it amplifies the dominance of Andrew’s lyrics. The slower tempo draws your attention towards the sad storyline, of loneliness and depression. It features whistling as a secondary instrument which in a way makes the song much more personal than it already was. It creates the impression that Andrew never designed the song to be heard by other people, but only his former lover. The song represents that one universal feeling we have all felt post losing a loved one, of wishing in any way possible to let them know just one more time how much we loved them and the hopelessness of how to move on.
The penultimate track from Lorelei is the high tempo “You Couldn’t Tell”. It possesses intense lyrics in the verses which seek to identify the post break up anger felt by Andrew, how he attempting to completely cut someone out of his life, the things she used to say, how she acted, what they would talk about, yet the intensity and complexity of the verses belies his true intent of the song. This was to indicate that even though he was so desperate to come off as independent and bitter, fundamentally he was longing for a reversal of his fortunes, for things to go back to the way they once were, best summarised by the line “I’m imagining a story, where you regret and I am happy, but stories are seldom real.” This song is perhaps my favourite if only for the self actualisation and realisation of the complete contrast to how we wish we were, and how we really are, that despite the desire and simplicity of just cutting ties with someone, we all have elements of weakness and insecurity that portray our true feelings.
Considering the heavy emotional storyline this album portrays, it is perhaps fitting that the final song of Lorelei is surprisingly upbeat. In complete contrast to earlier songs such as “I don’t want to wake up” and “the Passion” this song shows uncharacteristic optimism towards meeting a new person, and the desire for that person to act as the company he so sorely wanted. The song represents the healing process, the nervous rebuilding off his self esteem, of the simple longing for female company and nothing more. It is a complete contradiction of “The Passion”, gone is the resolute certainty that Andrew perceived his situation of being, to yearning the attention of another human being.
Lorelei exhibits the complex and varying emotions Andrew possessed and in essence acts as an insight towards the internal conflicts he had to contend with at this difficult time in his life. The album features the entire emotional spectrum so commonplace throughout any break up, anger represented by the song “You Couldn’t Tell”, Jealousy from “Lying Next to You, hopeless depression from “I don’t want to wake up” and the subsequent desire for a spiritual revival from “The Passion”. The strength of this album stems from the circumstance surrounding its birth; every song on Lorelei was created out of the utmost honest and blazing emotions he had the great fortune to be able to turn into music, an attribute that he is possibly unaware of. Even though Andrew may wish he could taste the Nepenthe and erase what must have been a painful and eventful period of his life, what we have in its wake is an album of insightful and emotional revelation that we can all relate to in some way or another, and an album that should perhaps have more widespread notoriety than it possesses now.
Due to the very personal nature of the album, you can only get a hold of Lorelei by directly contacting Andrew Morris or by emailing a request to plutosladder (@) yahoo.com . Each copy is hand made per order.
July 6th, 2011