Listening to Zan Strumfeld’s music always feels like Sunday morning — comforting, familiar and full of possibility. With her signature folk-y sound and image-heavy lyrics, Strumfeld’s newest release carefully and beautifully explores the limits of lost love.
Released March 9, Strumfeld’s EP Someone New is a seven-song meditation on heartbreak. However, unlike other “breakup” albums, these aren’t songs of malice or revenge. Strumfeld makes herself partially culpable in her own heartbreak, which is both mature and refreshing .
However, before this review goes any further, there needs to be a disclaimer that Strumfeld is a friend. Now that that’s out of the way, I can get back to the music.
The album’s fourth track, “Friday’s Fire,” may be one of my favorite Strumfeld songs ever. With her finger-plucking, this song highlights her guitar playing as much as her songwriting. The chords reverberate and resonate, which gives the song a strength that I’d love to hear in more of Strumfeld’s music.
At one point, Strumfeld sings “I only get like this when it’s snowing” and “luckily, for me, it’s snowing.” But I think it’s safe to say that we’re lucky it was snowing, because this song serves as the backbone of the EP.
Less than two minutes long, “I Don’t Want To Be Nice” is a beautiful little glimpse into Strumfeld’s mind. With its slow, meandering tempo and layered harmonies, it’s like being wrapped up inside her most intimate thoughts. The song reminds me of that loop of thoughts that plays inside your head; the thoughts you won’t reveal to anyone; the thoughts that are always about the person they shouldn’t be about.
As the song comes to an end, Strumfeld repeats “I don’t want to be nice” and finishes with “I want you.” The simplicity of the words juxtaposed with the weight of their meaning is gut-wrenching in the best way. This song is a microcosm of the album on the whole, which speaks with an honesty and earnestness I haven’t encountered in a while.
“Carry On” serves as a welcomed levity in its quicker tempo and reassuring lyrics. The song opens with “I was born drowning in my lungs then I learned how to swim, and tread on,” which becomes the main theme of the song — struggling through the darkness to come out on the other side.
She sings with the authority, but not condescension, of someone who’s experienced heartbreak and knows how to overcome it. This song, like the rest of the album, reveals how Strumfeld has mended her own heart through melody.
To reference all of the poetic lyrics would require a whole other review, so I’ll just point out the one that always gives me chills. In “Ghosts Pt. III,” Strumfeld sings, “So push away, don’t feel my bones/they are too cold to have a home.”
Whenever I hear that line, I am simultaneously jealous and awe-struck, because I wish I had written something so perfect. We’ve all felt the winter that spreads inside us when we realize how we’re not at home in our own bodies — let alone in the arms of someone else, and Strumfeld captures that universal feeling with incredible precision.
On March 11, Independent Music News, a UK-based website, listed Strumfeld as one of their “Top Fifty Independent/Unsigned Folk Acts,” and I have no doubt this won’t be the last time she’s featured on a “Top” list. With less than two years on the scene, Strumfeld has made a name for herself in the states and across the pond, as they say.
Someone New is a marked shift from her earlier EPs Patterns (2012) and A Brief Love Affair (2012), which is a little more folk-y and rough around the edges. Someone New is more polished and mature — both in sound and its message.
Honestly, I’m waiting breathlessly for her inevitable full-length studio album. In a world drowning in auto-tuned, lyrically-inept drivel, Strumfeld has carved herself a beautiful little niche of music perfect for Sunday mornings, road trips and just about every other occasion you can think of.
*Zan Strumfeld was formerly an Arts & Entertainment Editor at The New Paltz Oracle.