Originally appeared on Grimy Goods.
“El Paso buried under red hot lava, blazing brimstone, hollow every syllable,” the song [”El Paso”] goes, spun around a rhyme and syllable structure similar to the complex equations Joanna Newsom wrote out for the scheme of “Leaving the City.” Guitar riffs swirl like a Western ballad as blazing brimstone encircles us, but the final line of “El Paso” leaves us with something to cling to: there is “virtue heard through battlecries.”
It’s moments such as these littered throughout Hope is Never, that give a glimmer of the very thing that Ziemba seems to want to convince us does not exist. Most are small addendums on songs such as “El Paso,” or acknowledged visually, as in the wonderfully joyous video for “Rapture,” despite that track being very much about the end of days. But “Tiger Woman” doesn’t compromise; it is wholly empowering. “I run because I feel like it!” Ziemba cries, optimism and authority abound. But just as we saw the limits of grief in “El Paso,” there is an audible sense that this inner power also will not last. Toward the end, her vocals become strained, the melodies all spin out of control and we are caught in the middle. Was our power only fleeting?