In an era where we are collectively reassessing meanings of life and death, the singer-songwriter's latest will stand as a lasting memento 一 an apt discernment of time and aging.
Grief brands you. It’s akin to puncturing the skin with a scorching hot iron and it happens over and over again with every new loss.
Caroline Spence found herself battered from her own experiences, barely keeping afloat against the rising tidewaters of death, using songwriting to hopefully heal. True North arrives after one of the darkest periods in her life, the 12 songs here serving as both lamentations and revelations.
The singer-songwriter carves each puzzle piece until they lock snugly into place, culminating in a harshly vivid landscape. “Time doesn’t pass just to ease your pain / In growing up, it’s learning how to walk on through the rain”, chirps Spence with a refreshing suppleness on ‘Clean Getaway’. Its brightness contrasts with the pain still faintly throbbing in her ribcage, a daunting reminder that time often doesn’t actually heal you. Time simply allows us to make room for darkness that would suffocate us anyway.
Time leaves a deep-purple bruise on the album. True North sways from the deafening subtlety of ‘Blue Sky Rain’ (“Oh, it’s not enough to drown / but sometimes I wish it was”) to the thunderous blues of ‘Icarus’, in which she likens the Greek myth to her ongoing uphill battle. There’s something to be said about one’s willingness to feel, and to endure every pang of regret, sorrow, and madness pulsing through your body.
With True North, Spence permits raw emotion to be her guiding light, and the songwriting intuitively falls in line. Where ‘Scale These Walls’ pleads for complete vulnerability with a throaty yearn, 'I Know You Know Me' collapses beautifully under the weight of knowing someone unapologetically in all their shades and moods.
‘The Next Good Time’ and ‘There’s Always Room’ are the most devastating moments on the record. With the former, Spence borrows a wise saying from her late grandmother to sculpt its potent chorus line; “When trouble finds you, you can just do what I do / Grit your teeth, get through it / And wait for the next good time”. The latter wrangles with post-death notions that’ll haunt you if you let them, sweeping from the specifics about one’s life on earth to what could have been. “Pain is just love with nowhere to go,” she proposes, suggesting that grief is a form of love 一 just a little worse for wear.
Song for song, Truth North provides some of Spence’s best compositions to date. In an era where we are collectively reassessing meanings of life and death, the singer-songwriter’s latest will stand as a lasting memento 一 an apt discernment of time and aging. As she opines on ‘The Next Good Time’; “At the end of the line, you won’t be thinking ‘bout the hard times”.
Caroline Spence's 2022 album, True North, is available 4/29 via Rounder Records. You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below: