Indie Folk’s Sara Syms Showcases Her Vulnerable Side With “Where Do I Belong”
The third track from Sara Syms’ upcoming album, The Darkest Light, ‘Where Do I Belong’ resonates deeply with all ages, as it is a question we all must grapple with throughout our lives on this planet. . This song definitely takes on a much more grounded tone compared to the title track, emphasizing how this uncertainty is an inevitability in everyone’s life, but “like the old man and the sea/the phoenix rising from the ashes to be free”, we’re all going to eventually get to where we’re meant to be, even if it requires something turbulent like the ocean or a total rebirth.
Steady guitar and Syms’ rich vocals open this track, later peppered with gorgeous organ chords that really add to the song‘s impact. Syms is truly able to capture that feeling of lying in bed at night, unable to sleep and wondering what the point of it all is. Sometimes we just have to let life unfold and hope that we will be happy wherever we end up.
Syms shares, “The past few years have turned humanity on its side, inviting us all to assess everything. Whether it’s where you live, what you do for work, who your tribe is, or even what you do on this planet, it’s an insecurity and vulnerability shared by humans. We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We all want to belong.”
Sometimes one enlightening journey leads to another. For visionary singer-songwriter Sara Syms, her own odyssey of self-discovery sparked the creation of her new album, The Darkest Light. Its 10 songs unfold like a spiritual and emotional travelogue with a brilliantly woven soundtrack that ranges from transport and texture to deeply grounded.
For Syms, the compositions of The Darkest Light, to be released soon, are as much an echo of his past as a step forward. Before becoming a solo artist and recording American-themed Way Back Home and Fade To Blue in 2013 (the latter was nominated for the International Music and Entertainment Awards’ Americana Album of the Year), she managed Key Party and Dirty Water – bands that explored the many facets of deep sound singing, which possesses the flexibility and emotive power of a reed instrument, as well as the allusive qualities of ambient and textural music.
But in the wake of Way Back Home, Syms began to address larger questions about her music and herself. She no longer felt the desire to write for the genre—rather than from the heart—and began to find the music industry compelling. At the same time, and perhaps in conjunction, she felt the need to rediscover and reconnect with her own authenticity and identity, and to come to terms with her long-standing struggle with depression.
Syms recorded the album, their first since 2015’s Way Back Home, at famed Esplanade Studios in New Orleans, backed by an eclectic crew of Crescent City musicians. The journey of The Darkest Light begins with Syms’ warm, ethereal voice bewitching a hypnotic piano figure and the glide of a steel guitar, soon joined by a cello, inviting the listener to embark on a cosmic sojourn of the heart and mind. The next song, “Fear and Love,” “is the album’s mantra,” Syms says. As her voice soars angelically above a plinth of guitar and crackling drums, the singer tries out the duality of life: the sweet and the sour, the hard and the tender, and, of course, the emotions in the title. “In the last two years, in particular, we have shared so many fights through fear, with the pandemic, the political polarization, the catastrophic unknowns”, she observes. “This song invites people to stop running or going numb, to recognize challenges – no matter how severe – and to reflect on the love that is literally on the other side of this, and that we all share in our souls.” It is, indeed, a powerful message for the time.
The contrast between light and dark – and Syms’ search for textural and ambient sounds that match his elegant and emotive lyrics – continues in “Shadow Hunters” and recurs throughout the album until its finale. , “Change in the Air”, a reminder of the treasures of life and the supreme power of love. But before The Darkest Light’s search for truth ends, there are also songs more steeped in traditional New Orleans music, like “River of Life” and “The Game,” with their beats of biased street parade and their playful horns, and the gospel-influenced “Where Do I Belong”, which poses a central question in The Darkest Light’s journey.
Overall, the album, produced by Ari Teitel of Indian funk band Mardi Gras Cha Wa, reflects the diversity of today’s New Orleans sound, which encompasses everything from traditional jazz, soul, gospel and from the blues to the contemporary work of mixing genres from Lucinda Williams and the soundscapes of Daniel Lanois. is reflected on The darkest lightwhich were written over several years, Syms also cites other influences such as Lana Del Rey, Phoebe Bridgers, Bon Iver, Ray LaMontagne and Agnes Obel.