Album Review: salvia palth – ‘last chance to see’

Posted: by The Editor

salvia palth’s last chance to see is out now via Danger Collective Records. This LP from New Zealand-based musician Daniel Johann Lines is the follow-up to his debut, melanchole, released in 2013—which garnered a cult following across the internet. last chance to see is artistic reinvention for salvia palth; it’s more mature and polished in lyrics and production, while still remaining true to the obvious talent of the artist and the dedication to DIY production.

Like a lot of teenagers with nothing else to do, I was making a lot of mistakes on the internet around the 2010s. I was messaging strangers in the years before on MySpace, and was texting grainy photos to boys in class—without any comprehension of where they could end up (that repulsive website—if you’re around my age, you might know the one).  When I started high school in 2010, my life felt messy. My parents had finally completed a very messy, multi-year divorce, and my dad was in the process of losing my childhood house. Tumblr was my saving grace—I didn’t have the internet at my house, so I would spend time at the library or best friend’s house, reblogging photos from “Skins,” posting my own writing, and updating my music playlists. Tumblr is how I got my first boyfriend, after he slid in my DMs (we weren’t saying that back then). I discovered so much of my favorite music on the blogs I followed, and friends and I would swap new bands we found. I posted my poems and replied to the anon messages that said they related to them (don’t sleuth, I scrubbed this shit); but the thought of someone reading the poetry I wrote at 15—that was deeply cathartic to write, but full of cliches and cringe—versus now, actually makes me want to crawl out of my skin. This was of course backdropped against confessional records like salvia palth’s melanchole. “i was all over her” seemed to perfectly encapsulate how I felt when I was young, and eventually found itself as a caption for a black and white Instagram post (complete with a border around it—remember that feature?). 

melanchole has found renewed resonance on the internet; Tumblr passed the torch to TikTok for younger listeners discovering internet darlings like salvia palth and Alex G. Over the past decade Daniel Johann Lines, the name behind salvia palth, chose to focus intently on other endeavors, releasing music under different names (Adore, 1996, Daniel Johann). But today, salvia palth returns with the first record in over a decade with last chance to see. This has me thinking a lot about the pressure of living a creative life and pressure that comes with being young. 

Lately in my writing practice, I’ve been facing a lot of pressure. I’m trying to understand and compartmentalize the jealousy in this industry I’ve been experiencing over the last few years. It’s not the “I deserve this more” type of jealous—I know very talented people who are succeeding, and it’s inspiring for me to see. I see other people succeeding, who I don’t think are the best writers, but it’s so subjective, and I will be stoked for anyone making a little cash in this line of work. It’s more of an intense and bitter jealousy I feel with myself—I’m jealous I don’t have the dedication or drive that others have. Why am I struggling to sit down at my desk and write? What do I fear? How can I possibly follow up some of the poems I wrote, the ones I deeply love? I feel like I have nothing left to say, or that I only had a few important or meaningful things to write about, and that’s it. Now what? 

I could imagine the same rings true in every art form, and on my good days, I believe this feeling of inadequacy and insecurity will pass. I could imagine the thought of following up an album created at 15 that blew up online might have the same impact. Releasing music under the same name is, to me, brave and terrifying. last chance to see provides an opportunity to close the circle on the themes and emotions melanchole presented, allowing the audience to hear another perspective—lyrics that offer a more mature lens on life, and musical production that comes from education, dedication, and perfectionism. Of the new record, Lines says, “These songs thematically tie in with what people who are still listening to the first album might need to hear: young people who struggle to make meaningful relationships,” he says. “With melanchole, there’s no real closure, and there’s no real path forward. You’re stuck with this stunted teenage philosophy of vague nihilism that I’m trying to replace with a more constructive philosophy.”

This record began seven years ago and is the outcome of constant revisions. It genre-bends gazey/indie/folksy with some influences of hip-hop and house. It has a bit of everything, like visiting a painter’s gallery—it’s an opportunity to see what they are capable of, to witness the dedication that goes into the work, all in one place. The final product displays the type of love and effort that goes into art while simultaneously carrying the weight of grief, and that is not lost on me while listening—you can hear the hyper-focused tinkering that went into every lyric and sound on this record. It’s an album that examines our behaviors, complexities in relationships, and ethical pondering—something that I was only just beginning to discover a decade ago. It’s a complete reinvention for the artist, while still maintaining the craft of DIY and at-home recording.

The record begins with “no intro” and keeps the listener on a hook. On first listen, I was surprised—and that’s coming from someone who loves funky music. It borders on house and disco, and I was curious if the entire album was going to match this. My initial guess was that this sound would come back later, maybe in the final track, but the first lyric of “I’m coming back again” sets the tone for the album’s themes that almost feel omniscient, or the easy answer, a voice that is wiser and more familiar with life’s surprises. “best friend on the cross” is my favorite track and feels like a “classic” salvia palth song. It’s slacker rock with no harmonies and sung a bit slurry. It evokes the DIY roots that salvia palth is known for, and I love that the at-home recording still shines through in this record. It’s clean—cleaner, even—but not too clean.

Lately, I’ve become obsessed with creative routines. If I make develop a stronger pattern for myself, will the words return? How do I stop feeling apathetic to poetry? The things that are inspiring lately—love, healthy relationships, beauty in the mundane, haven’t found their voice in my writing yet. I don’t know that I have anything to say, and I’m trying to unlearn this pressure—after all, Louise Glück wrote The Wild Iris after experiencing writer’s block and gaining inspiration from her garden. Things take time, and this album may be the perfect reminder of that. It’s never too late to return to something; there is no timeline that anyone needs to follow.

last chance to see is the record I want all my creative friends to hear. With an increase in AI and algorithms, it seems as if the pressure to create and share is higher now than ever. So many of my friends are burnt out from simply trying to exist and pay rent while also fulfilling their creative passions. The final song, “still i struggle,” is meta—it pokes fun at the 10-year gap between records and is about putting things off until the last minute, but pushing through despite it all. Younger audiences need to hear this in the things they are consuming—you can create and feel deeply and struggle, but that’s all right. When I was a teenager, I was listening to melanchole and didn’t think I could survive the things I was battling. Now, it feels surreal to be writing about this new album. You can and will get through whatever it is you’re going through, you just have to stick it out. The opportunity to return to a passion is a solid reminder that it’s never too late to began again or to develop a new perspective on something with growth and experience. I didn’t understand that the first time I heard salvia palth a decade ago, but I understand it now. I’m lucky I stuck around despite my demons and found out. 

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Ryleigh Wann | @wannderfullll

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