Listening Booth, Music
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Listening Booth: Finian McKean, “Monsters of the Deep Woods”

At first, Finian McKean’s Monsters of the Deep Woods seems deceptively simple, with its sparse acoustics and oblique lyrics. Each successive listen, though, reveals a new layer of meaning and thought, another piece in what McKean calls “a record of one singer’s shamanizing.”

This isn’t the fantasy, fairy-tale spirituality that conjures images of fairies, angels and other winged beings, but the kind of spirituality that connects all that exists (McKean is beginning a PhD in Haravard’s Sanskrit Department). Thus, little about the album is overtly spiritual. Instead, its ethereal qualities are more implications. In “Dropping Roses,” McKean cries, “all I wanna know / where do I bury the body.” Elsewhere, he sings of longing to be free, suicide and connecting with nature.

Finian McKean – Dropping Roses

The music itself is rarefied in its own ways, sounding more like it is something that possesses McKean, rather than he possessing it. Many of the tracks float between lazy reverb, a guitar or two, and become billows of heavy, loud, distorted sound. From track to track, his voice often sounds different from the way it did in the one before it.

While the few up-tempo tracks help to give the album some diversity, the most resonant tracks are the most somber, because they capture the state of McKean’s purest emotions at the time. When he opens with the defiant, challenging dare of “I Could Drink All Night,” he boasts that he’ll never be satisfied — and it’s all too easy to believe him. With “Deep Woods,” he seduces you, beckons you forth to confront your own monsters, whether they be the same as those he’s found, or some kind of a burden or secret unique to you.

Finian McKean – I Could Drink All Night

He leaves us with “Bitter River,” a piano ditty that personifies the ever changing body of water. “Used to be a tributary / and now the ocean’s dying, too / just like you,” he coos. After all the conflicts he presents before we get here — dissatisfaction, restraint, death wishes, poor actions — the ability to change is an comforting thought.

Monsters of the Deep Woods is available through And Each for Only Recordings.