Please Sennd Help
If you’re a hopeless romantic who still loves every other who has ever been significant to you, for an hour or a lifetime, no matter how bad they hurt you (or you them), then Please Sennd Help is for you. Equal parts beauty and melancholy, like all of Michael Plaster’s work as SoulWhirlingSomewhere, Please Sennd Help is an achingly lovely, tear-stained, torn and rumpled map to the lost territory of hope on the far shores of despair.
Most songs start with heartbreakingly fragile piano or slow-strummed acoustic guitar, soon joined by shimmering synth, muffled electronic percussion, and Michael’s heart on his sleeve, exquisitely expressive vocals. The lyrics show an incredible sensitivity — to the scent of lipstick on a note kissed years ago, the tiny stutter of breath in the troubled sleep of the person sleeping next to you, a quirky smile fluttering at the edge of someone’s lips. And so does the music, even in its tiny “errors,” such as two keys struck on the piano instead of one, that make the songs seem that much more human and vulnerable.
Although Please Sennd Help does come out of several years’ worth of relationships entered too quickly and ended too soon, it has a strong undercurrent of strength and perseverance that makes it feel hopeful rather than despairing. This comes as something of a relief after the incredible searing pain and emotional exhaustion of SoulWhirlingSomewhere’s last album, Hope Was, which felt a bit like listening to an open wound bleed. This time the musical experience is more complex, and rewarding. I love the whole album, right down to the closing thirteenth track, “I give up. Goodbye.,” on which “goodbye” is repeated so often it becomes hello — not so much a final ending as a walking away to allow for new beginnings.
But my favorite is the first track, an instrumental called “The Wedding.” Four of the tracks on Please Sennd Help are instrumentals, and I think they’re some of the best, partly because music often does a better job than words at expressing emotions. “The Wedding” begins with reverberating, lonely piano, reflective and infinitely sad, questioning not just what went wrong, but whether anything went right. Deep, throbbing percussion comes in next, muffled heartbeats exploding like bombs in the night. Then tympani and electronic percussion arrive, making the track faster and more rhythmic, more alive, as if remembering the happy times, the laughter and sunshine, while strummed guitars give texture and depth. Suddenly everything is stripped down to dark piano again; a recurring realization that the good times are over. But then the guitars and percussion return again too, like golden light suffusing the scene, the seesawing musical direction reflecting perfectly the way memories of lost loves run hot and cold. “The Wedding” ends with a sense of hushed, breathless expectation, synth waves shifting and shimmering like a desert mirage, the past as unreal and uncertain as the future, and just as potentially wonderful (or terrible).