When songwriters are faced with an unthinkable loss, their muse can lead them to either write tunes expressing a further sinking into hopeless despair, or ones that inspire themselves and others to process the tragedy courageously and swim towards the shards of light on the horizon.
Sink or swim is the perfect clichéd metaphor to springboard a discussion of Thank You For Your Generosity, the latest album by Chapel Hill indie rockers Nathan Oliver, whose frontman of the same name began writing the epic eight song elegy/celebration of life after the death of his brother in 2017. And not simply because the lead single from the epic eight song collection/journey through the emotional minefield/embrace of life is “Everybody’s Swimming,” an fun, speedy and punky blaze of energy that balances an exhortation to overcome and have fun with thoughtful ruminations like “And if through dreams we communicate could that be fine?” It’s almost as if Oliver wants to find a way for the spirit of his late brother to give the “a-ok” to his choice to carry on triumphantly instead of choosing a downward path.
The other track that gets unabashedly to the heart of the matter – and is thus the emotional centerpiece – is the moody, hypnotic mid-tempo “Even if You Go,” whose introspective lyrics more directly address death and choosing to be with the loved one even though they’ve gone: “When I’m with you/We’re sand in an hourglass that cannot move/And even if you go, I stay with you.” Elsewhere, edging from feisty and playful alt rock fire towards deeper meditative atmospheres, they get down the business of life – including a lighthearted look at the memory (presumably shared with his brother) of his grandfather, whose air conditioning business “Air Control” received way too many calls from people reporting alien activity.
The most intensely burning rockers are the tracks that explore living in a world of mindless capitalism (“Stand in Line”) and the existential crisis (once obviously exacerbated by the loss of a sibling) of wondering if we are wasting our lives (the slow building, ultimately exploding “Runaway”). Nathan Oliver frames the journey uniquely, opening with what they call an instrumental “palette cleanser” featuring trippy backwards guitars (whose title “Generous Seas” sets the overall tone) and wrapping with the expansive atmospheric dreamscape “A Tangent In Time,” a stream of consciousness reflection full of gratitude, acceptance and most of all, closure.