Ah fuck, this is a tough one. There are many albums where I find myself listening to a few songs from the record just to get a feeling on it, and then I don't touch it for a long time for some reason. But when I heard this album for the first time it pulled me in a way that not many albums are capable of. And understandably so, it's incredible.
This is Carissa's Wierd third and final studio album, released in 2002. The American indie band from Seattle wasn't the most popular thing during their somewhat short career, from 1995 until 2003, releasing only three projects throughout these years. Underrated and overlooked are certainly the first two words that come to mind, especially after you listen to this thing. In my opinion it can quite easily go toe to toe with most of the popular indie records from that area.
Songs About Leaving is an emotionally potent piece of music that will make you cry like a baby effortlessly. But it also stands out from most of the albums in its genre with its ambition and rich instrumentation. The heartfelt lyrics and touching melodies are resulting in one of the most heart-wrenching experiences you'll get from that time.
Production-wise, the album is stellar. Like I already said, the most notable thing about this album is that it's not here to just be soothingly sad. Even though it can definitely do that as well, it also contains plenty of intriguing dynamics, gentle explosive points and a variety of instruments. From the moving violin work throughout the record, to the delicate piano and the immersive organ on the closer "(March 19th 1983) It Was Probably Green".
Everything is impeccably lush, lavish and ethereal, and every instrumental layer is complimenting the others seamlessly. It's almost unbelievable how much of a tear-jerker the production is,. It packs an incredible amount of sadness with its melancholically bittersweet melodies and arrangements, and we are not even talking about the lyrics and the vocals yet. It's also amazing how it's just as engaging during its slower points as it is throughout the most fleshed out sections.
When it comes to the vocal performances... Holy fucking shit. There are two vocalists throughout the tracklist, who are Jenn Champion and Mat Brooke. Let's mention first the stunning vocal harmonies between these two, which were extremely hypnotic and captivating to say the least, the chemistry between them is undeniable. I love but also hate how drained and exhausted both of them are sounding, which is very effective and moving yet incredibly depressing as well. They are genuinely so beautifully melancholic, with their raw vocal delivery, truly soaked in sadness.
Thematically, it's even more depressing than the production and the vocal performances. The album revolves around themes of destructive relationships, the falling apart of relationships, depression, regret, loss, death and suicidal mindsets. You are most likely inhuman if you play the album from front to back while reading the lyrics without feeling some sort of sadness getting under you skin. Because the lyrics are just as sad as it can possibly get, with no mercy.
The songwriting is spectacular as well. The writing is intimate, heartfelt and gut-wrenching. The group dives into these subjects from intriguing perspectives that every one of them is as impactful and touching as the last one. It explores depression and hopelessness so well, really getting into the most ugly and personal parts inside that horrible mindset, so bleak and broken. It's undeniable that they manage to evoke so much devastation only with the lyrics.
I would also like to mention the incredible pacing of the project. The band placed every track thoughtfully, and the flow of the tracklist is great. If it's a raw and relatively stripped back powerhouse like So You Wanna Be a Superhero right between two of the most fleshed out tracks on the album, or even an (almost) instrumental interlude such as The Piano Song placed after one of the most cathartic moments on the album in Ignorant Piece of Shit, as a cooldown.
Overall, Songs About Leaving is probably one of the most powerful slowcore albums I've ever heard, by an insanely underrated band. A perfect soundtrack for snuggling in a tiny bed while swimming in tears.
Favorite: You Should Be Hated Here, So You Wanna Be a Superhero, September Come Take This Heart Away, Ignorant Piece of Shit, Farewell to All These Rotten Teeth, Sofisticated Fuck Princess Please Leave Me Alone, (March 19th 1983) It Was Probably Green
Least favorite: A New Holiday (November 16th)