What happens when love dies? The heady thrill of romantic entanglement may well incline us to embrace the belief that love lasts forever, yet the realities of everyday life often expose it for the wilful illusion it really is. Love is transitory: the emotional intimacy of companions and the pleasures of companionship gradually or suddenly disintegrate, dissolve and dissipate across the cooling winds of time. Like everything else love, too, decomposes.
The flaring embers of collapsed relationships is the hollow no-man’s land of bewilderment, hurt, reproach and contempt that marks a seamless evolution from tales of narcissistic abuse which were the foundations of the darkly compelling The Science of Goodbye (2020). Rachel Cohen’s extraordinary ability to fashion a powerfully expressive poetry which carries shards of cutting lyrical insight is the compelling fuel powering this absorbing album.
The opening salvo sets the tone: “You could have learned to handle me with care / Infatuation’s spell: that’s going neverwhere.” (Love’s Lost Property). As things begin to fall apart, a weary attrition kicks in: “I know nobody’s perfect, but nothing needs to be this hard.” (Requiem). At the end, a barbed wistfulness remains: “And still, from time to time I wonder what you’ve found / I hope she treats you well / ‘Cause my God you let me down.” (Wish I Wished You Well).
The place where we find ourselves is emotionally weary yet hugely poignant, one which makes sense of the album as a whole:
And I accept what can’t be changed
I’ll love from a better place.”
– Eye For An Eye
When things fall apart in the relationships of trust and love we build with others, then love’s lost property is not just a loss of something in the quality of love itself: it is the loss of ourselves as well. We become the lost property of a relationship, abandoned, wounded, scarred and cut adrift.
Rachel’s vocals on this recording are an absolute masterclass. As listeners I suspect we rarely reflect on just what it takes to sing your way through material which is so fiercely passionate yet so utterly heart-breaking, so intensely moving yet saturated with soul rending sorrow. The toll it must take to dredge up every nuance lurking in the shifting sentiments of a broken love, and to do it with a voice that has the assured gentleness and alluring beauty of an angel makes it all the more astonishing.
For this second outing, Jonathan Edward’s keyboard work is simply magnificent, skilfully weaving and intertwining with the vocals to support, enhance, highlight, harass and even disrupt the mood of each song. A sublime and absorbing performance is enhanced by the diversity of the instruments he brings to the stage, providing greater degrees of texture and expanding the palette of feelings, dispositions and sounds.
The elegant simplicity of Wish I Wished You Well consists of an imposing grand piano cradling and uplifting a light vocal, enhanced by the introduction of a violin’s sprightly skipping above the keys. Contrast this, for example, with Dark Before Dawn where we find a sweeping array of differing keyboards and samples opening the soundstage to wider horizons and even greater depths.
The introduction of string and wind instruments is where, I think, Love’s Lost Property really transcends the debut and makes it such an accomplished delight. The opening title track begins with Kate Ronconi’s bewitching violin supplying a haunting, resonant, mournful atmosphere. A forlorn vocal intervenes: “Every bridge is burned”, supplemented by a sublime series of transitions as Tim Hamill and Dave Gregory trade pensive, incisive guitar solos reflecting troubled, introspective and equally defiant moods.
Requiem begins simply enough, rippling arpeggios supporting a floating echoed vocal; yet we are taken to a different level when Catherine Tanner-Williams offers a lightly dancing oboe to contrast with the keys, further elevated by Andy Coughlan’s double bass adding a touch of brooding depth before the oboe reconnects, skipping away in optimism and hope before the keys reassert themselves once more.
Eye For an Eye is a mesmerising slow burner. An echoed piano and vocal opening are embraced by a wall of keyboard sounds, the crescendo building with an emerging and persistent drum. Above it all, Steve Simmons erupts with a demonstrative, focused sax providing an emotional, triumphant release, holding the note when the other instruments cease and a soothing synth takes over. A resurgent and rousing refrain leads to a sax climax segueing to an impulsive guitar solo from Tim.
This is an album which rightly and quite unashamedly doesn’t flinch from confronting the disturbing emotions and grappling with the traumatic scars we are capable of inflicting on each other when love breaks down. The supreme achievement which Cohen and Edwards have created is that we get to revel in a musical experience which is at times delightfully unfathomable in the extent of its creativity and absolutely stunning in its finesse and beauty.
I also highly commend the bibliography included at the end for further reading; essential for those wishing to explore these difficult waters further, and exemplary practice for artists who would guide us in grappling with these painful affairs of the heart.
01. Love’s Lost Property (8:41)
02. Dark Before Dawn (4:49)
03. Requiem (3:52)
04. Last Day on Earth (4:49)
05. Wish I Wished You Well (4:26)
06. The Circus (3:57)
07. Ordinary World (6:23)
08. Eye for an Eye (5:57)
09. Love’s Lost Property (reprise) (1:57)
Total Time – 44:51
Rachel Cohen – Vocals
Jonathan Edwards – Keyboards
Steve Balsamo – Vocals
Andy “Wal” Coughlan – Bass
Dave Gregory – Guitar
Tim Hamill – Guitars, Bass, Drum Programming
Kate Ronconi – Violin
Steve Simmons – Saxophone
Catherine Tanner-Williams – Oboe
Record Label: Firefly Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 10th September 2021