Told Slant – High Dirge (Stream)
by Steven Spoerl
Today unearthed great songs from angelic milk, Heaven For Real, Mourn, Lion’s Den, TSP, Kwesi Foraes, notable videos from The Virginmarys (who almost earned this post’s feature spot by virtue of their clip’s sheer honesty), Whitney, Ty Segall, Mothers, Oh Pep!, and a genuine Album of the Year candidate in Attic Abasement‘s Dream News. It also brought Told Slant‘s breathtaking “High Dirge” out into the world.
After gifting the world with the chill-inducing “Low Hymnal” — still a very strong candidate for 2016’s best song — and the warm “Tsunami”, the Felix Walworth-led project has returned to provided another glimpse at their forthcoming Going By. Of the two songs that have been released, “High Dirge” falls more in line with the somber nature of “Low Hymnal” than the more celebratory sensibilities of “Tsunami”, embracing an otherworldly melancholy that goes a long way in making the song feel endearingly human.
From the startlingly realized scene that opens the track, “High Dirge” never once veers away from the small, every day moments that confirm we’re alive. Whether it’s freshening up in the bathroom or prying yourself open, there’s enough time for a host of questions to emerge. Some of them get tackled, some get ignored, pushed to the wayside out of either fear or despondence.
Walworth addresses, confronts, and reassures those moments with the simple refrain of “It’s a long life, it’s hard to get it right” towards the song’s close, a surprisingly hopeful upgrade from “It’s a long life, I can’t get it right.” “High Dirge” is the third song from Going By to thrive on Walworth’s naked openness, bravely laying everything bare for a clinical dissection that’s as unforgiving as it is insightful.
Yet, the song never nears a feeling of total loss or hopelessness, offering just enough positivity to keep “High Dirge” courageously stretching forward towards something better. While there’s an inherent heartbreak to that glimmer of hope, that same lightness also allows the song to stay grounded and painfully relatable. As usual, the stakes of the narrative are heightened by incredibly tasteful and deeply intuitive instrumental work (the banjo figures of Going By have been nothing short of perfect) that provides “High Dirge” with an impressive dramatic flair.
Ultimately, “High Dirge” feels representative for Told Slant’s current era and marks a high point for Walworth’s songwriting, which may very well be why it also claims the line that gives Going By its title: High dirge for the way that I am going by. That line arrives in the song’s gentle outro section, which underlines the steady uncertainty that serves as the crux of “High Dirge”.
It’s a beautiful tactic that strengthens one of the song’s most important unifying threads before everything fades into silence. One last moment of transcendence in a song that’s destined to be remembered.
Listen to “High Dirge” below and pre-order Going By from Double Double Whammy here.