“Talena Bricker has been writing music for seventeen years, but it is only now that she is bringing her music to public attention and we are very grateful for that. Following in a similar vein of Agnes Obel, there's a wonderful, transfixing tone to Bricker's voice on 'Drowning' - making the vocal delivery and darkly poetic lyrical themes of loss, longing, regret and deep sadness, as evocative and poignant as the song's shuddering instrumentation.”
Singer-songwriter Talena Bricker’s latest EP, War Line, is an engaging indie-folk offering that balances poetic abstraction with visceral emotionality. It’s a rare feat to be broadly resonate yet wield mystique. The result is that the Pacific Northwest native’s sophomore album satisfies like a work of literature, and it rewards with repeated listens. The more you immerse yourself in Talena’s songs, the more meaning you find.
“When I write, I’m grappling with complicated feelings and narratives. I ask questions in music and leave things open-ended and unresolved. That’s life, and that’s what feels human to me. It brings me a beautiful catharsis, and it helps me to connect with others as they can use these songs to make sense of their own lives,” the Richland, Washington-based artist shares.
After decades of privately writing songs, in 2018 Talena boldly stepped forward with her debut EP. Her first release was an intimate voice and acoustic guitar record that earned rave reviews from online outlets such as Ear To The Ground and When The Horn The Blows. Since then, Talena has grown artistically through playing shows, and sharing her music in front of live audiences. Her latest release, War Line, finds her incorporating a lusher Americana soundscape into her literate indie-folk. This expanded palette of instrumentation includes ethereal pedal steel, pastoral violin flourishes, and sensitive guitar, bass, and drums interplay. Talena’s latest work recalls the subtle country-tinged beauty of songwriter indie artists such as Gregory Alan Isakov, Patrick Park, and John Paul White. The 5-song EP was recorded at Rye Room in Portland by studio owner and producer Matt Greco.
The title “War Line” is powerfully evocative, though it’s also a little opaque. Talena says: “I was in a place of major growth in my life while writing these songs. I learned how to set boundaries, sometimes I broke down boundaries—for good and bad—so, partly, the songs and the title come from this push and pull, battles, wins, and failures.”
The EP’s title track features a rich emotional and sonic tapestry. There is a longing coursing through the song mirrored by haunting pedal steel and sweetly sorrowful singing enriched by layers of airy harmony vocals. The emotive urgency is set from the opening lyrics of: I’m afraid that the lamp at the door/Is gonna go out it won’t shine evermore/Will you know where to find me at night/When I am asleep and there is no light? A constant in Talena’s work is the inspiration of nature; rustic environs are a muse and a metaphor. The delicate “Fold” features breathtaking imaging that is as transporting as it is emotionally stirring. Here, her words are supported by delicate folk acoustic guitar fingerpicking.
The single “In Betweens” opens with a mesmerizing minor-key descending melodic figure that establishes the song’s mood. Here, Talena’s vocals have an elegant flutter—they’re stirring and emotive yet also float along elegantly. With lyrics such as: Some are born while others are dying/Some of us loving while some of us are losing/Sometimes giving and sometimes we’re using, it can be interpreted that the song alludes to making sense of lifechanging shakeups. Talena reveals: “I wrote this song two years ago. I had 4 children, the youngest still a baby, and I was just starting to figure out how to live a life outside of my four walls. I was someone who needed fresh air, space, freedom, while also wanting the white picket family. I was someone who wanted a close relationship, but also sometimes feels claustrophobic. For me, this song is mostly about balance and mental health.”
The rousing single, “Done No Wrong,” conjures starry nights of contemplation when everything is beautiful around you while pain smolders inside your heart. That juxtaposition is brought home with lonesome pedal steel guitar textures and the song’s country-tinged melancholic tonality. The lyrics here are pent-up and poetic. One choice portion includes: You can’t wash me clean and you won’t save my soul/But down to the river, down to the river I’ll run/You take me to when I was young and I had done no wrong. There is mystery and excitement coursing through the song. Talena reveals: “I think, in the end, the song became about hope. And how hope is a wonderful thing, but can also be a little scary. It can be that extra push to get out of your comfort zone and do something scary.”
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"I’m not sure a more poignant song could have been released during this time." Imperfect Fifth
"Nestled within music of wonder, Talena Bricker pours out her heart directly to your soul. Play it and see." Americana Highways
"[Talena] is a contemplative singer songwriter with command of the acoustic guitar. Her lyrics are often poetic and thoughtful. Drowning is an interesting album that is worthy of your listen." Ear To The Ground
"Talena Bricker weaves sadness into serenity in new single, 'From These Cliffs'. There's a solemn and reverant tone to the song, as Bricker's captivating vocal spills vivid poetic lyricism amongst delicate and consoling arrangements." When The Horn Blows
"Talena’s mellow vocals harmonise beautifully with subtle guitar in a way which will give you chills." York Calling
“[Talena] Bricker's poignant debut single "Drowning" … is a dark and powerful indie folk tune …Listen and dig,” Santa Rosa Records
"This sweet, subtle folk style is well balanced for the ear. The acoustic guitar just glides from line to line, providing a beautiful basis for the lead vocal. The great thing about Bricker’s vocal is that she doesn’t try to do too much, but it doesn’t feel understated either. It just nestles expertly into the string work, like a bird into its nest. This is a fascinating track full of natural imagery and a comfortable vibe." Ear To The Ground
"'Drowning' is an incredibly beautiful yet bleak introduction to Bricker's sound, seeing her pull from waltzy, dark folk influences and classical pop, leaving her listener feeling haunted by the ghosts of what once was and what could have been." When The Horn Blows
"Drowning is the debut EP from Talena Bricker. Far too many singer/songwriters (particularly female ones) get labelled as "haunting" and "ethereal," and Bricker definitely is. But when your music hits the same nerves as Elliott Smith and Nick Drake, it's an apt comparison. . . From the second I started listening to "Walking Mountain," I had made the Elliott Smith comparison in my head. Do yourself a favor and check this one out. " If It's Too Loud
“This subtle and sweet folk song has some haunting unison vocals that will pull you in immediately....” Ear To The Ground