PICK OF THE WEEK: Death of friend overcomes Midwife’s Johnston who creates ‘Forever’ as tribute

Any time we get a chance to escape the often rigid confines of metal and heavy music, we try to do that, even if it means it’s an emotional caterwaul that’s hard to shake. That can take us into pieces of work that don’t just act as a collection of songs recorded in the same sessions and instead is a bookmark in one’s life or a way to let swollen emotions flood to the surface.

Midwife’s second full-length “Forever” is one of those albums that is so much more than just a record that landed three years after debut “Like Author Like Daughter,” it’s a letter to a fallen friend and artistic partner who meant the world to sole creator Madeline Johnston and a way for her to express her titanic grief. Johnston and Colin Ward bonded in Denver-based DIY artistic space Rhinoceropolis and became friends and roommates as well as artistic associates. Johnston also saw Ward as a teacher, someone who helped guide her and who embodied the spirit of the space in which they met, and his sudden passing in 2018 left her devastated. Therefore, Johnston turned her sorrow and pain toward this new Midwife album, a six-track effort that’s mournful, lives in thick shadows, and pays homage to someone whose presence is so sorely missed. The music is haunting and infectious, but even when its essence gets in your blood, you’re drawn back to the irreparable wounds that brought about these songs.

“2018” opens the record, a nod to the year Ward died, and Johnston repeats, “This is really happening,” until finally ending with, “To me,” as she levels with reality. Her next line, “Get the fuck away from me 2018,” hammers home the darkness and despair of a horrible timeframe. “Anyone Can Play Guitar” opens with beats and guitars that glimmer more, working through the verses before Johnston levels, “You can’t run for your whole life with two truths and a lie,” as it loops over the chorus. Guitars buzz in a haze, feeling like a swarm of noise swelling above your head. “Vow” has keys plinking as it leads in slowly, gently swimming through consciousness. The playing is reflective and lets the emotion drain in calculated manner, ending the instrumental cut in lucid dreams.

“Language” has guitars easing over peaks, sprawling as beats join up and the keys break into the waters. “How do I say it in every language?” Johnston repeatedly asks over the song, searching for answers. As the song winds down, she finishes the full question, adding, “I will never forget you,” which definitely will get caught as a heave in your chest. “C.R.F.W.” begins with Ward reading lines from a poem, imagining leaves falling to the ground and living life apart from the tree, words that slowly emerge into Johnston’s psychedelic guitars and trippy melodies that feel like they usher off into the cosmos, taking with it souls into the deep universe. “S.W.I.M.” ends the record with guitars scruffing while vocals work through scarred lenses as Johnston calls, “I don’t want to live forever, paranoid for my whole life.” The track turns grungy yet sort of bubbly, letting the emotion bleed out on a high note.

Someone could walk into “Forever” with no knowledge of the sadness and pain that went into the music and still be affected. Yet knowing what Johnston experienced and the loss she endured, it’s hard to listen to so much of this without being moved and mournful along with her. No matter what Johnston does under the Midwife banner, it’s hard to imagine she will make anything quite this personal and vulnerable again, and we wish her the best and eternal inspiration from her lost friend.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Midwife-1544620965823272/

To buy the album, go here: https://nowflensing.com/collections/pre-orders

For more on the label, go here: https://nowflensing.com/

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