Undivorceable

Noam Weinstein

Independent release, 2022

http://www.enoam.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/22/2022

From Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks to Joni Mitchell’s Blue to Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear—not to mention Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel Of Love and Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago—the breakup album has a long and storied history. For so many creatives, making art becomes a way to process emotions that can otherwise feel overwhelming.

New York singer-songwriter Noam Weinstein’s 2016 album In Waves saw him working through a case of emotional whiplash as his mother’s death intersected with his son’s birth. In 2020 he explored something of a mid-life crisis in 42½. His 2022 album finds the sensitive-yet-soul-baring Weinstein going through another wrenching transition: divorce. Undivorceable may be the perfect title for an album of songs about deceiving oneself and others, about the masks we all wear to hide our pain, and about the potential consequences when the masks come off.

For a songwriter who’s always worn his heart on his sleeve, it’s both unsurprising and perhaps inevitable that this album feels bracingly raw and cathartic, a revisitation (and one hopes to some extent purging) of every devastating moment through a season of dissolution. Never one for half-measures, here Weinstein offers a full-body embrace of the pain and grief associated with a foundational relationship coming apart at the seams.

Piano man Weinstein receives strong support from frequent collaborator and producer/arranger Mike Viola, who also contributes guitars, harmonies, and a variety of other subtle touches, backed by a band of Lee Pardini (organ and keys), Jonathan Flaugher (bass) and Abe Rounds (drums). A number of songs are also fleshed out with string arrangements by Trey Pollard.  

Weinstein and Viola smartly build the album’s sound from the ground up, with plaintive opener “The Kind Of Love” featuring Weinstein on solo piano and vocals, with strings coming in midway through. The deep melancholy in his voice as Weinstein sings of “The kind of love that never ever changes” tells you all you need to know about where the album is going; this is the sound of a man trying to convince himself of something that he already knows isn’t true, in a song framed like the overture to a tragic 1940s melodrama. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The musical accompaniment builds gradually alongside a growing sense of foreboding through the cautiously optimistic “Feeling Again” and the alternately urgent and melancholy “Imperfectly Still,” before the tart lounge-blues “Divorced Me” delivers the blow, its matter-of-fact panache repeatedly undercut by the obvious anguish underneath: “You picked the wrong horse / Well what can you do / No, I’m not sore / I would have divorced me too.”

“We Had Them Fooled” adds synth while delivering a first-half highlight, expressing something near contempt for the friends and family who were fooled by the central couple’s efforts to cover up the truth of their crumbling marriage; it’s harsh yet distressingly real in its portrayal of human foibles, and undeniably entertaining. First-half closer “Can’t Unask A Question” features bright acoustic guitar as Weinstein examines that moment when everything turns on a single question whose verbalization sets the couple down a road from which there’s no turning back.

The second half opens with an outlier as “Jackpot” arrives full of playful r&b swing, complete with swirling synths, chipper strings, and selective echo on the vocals. It’s an odd concoction in which Weinstein addresses head-on the inherent privilege of being born white. The nearly as experimental “Unnecessary Cowardice” features echoey staccato piano over a steady rhythm section as Weinstein calls out his own cowardice in the relationship without sparing his partner: “Truth is I was kind of lying about me / At times I’ve also been very unnecessarily cowardly / With my marriage and my work too / But at least I’m full of shame, so here’s some shame for you.” It’s a combustible combination of acrimony and desperation. On the equally haunting “Our Little Secret,” Weinstein notes that “No one checked out / No one cheated / Then how’s it wrecked now? / Our little secret,” before asking “What’s the big deal / Of the big reveal / If everyone near’s / Looking away?”

Weinstein finally turns his attention to the future in the closing pair of songs. The upbeat yet poignant “Anna” features jaunty piano and Casio-like vintage synth as he imagines the couple’s individual lives post-divorce. Then closer “How It Ends” delivers a heartfelt elegy for the relationship, trying to refocus back on the good parts instead of the shattering end: “Why should all the nights we’ve known get thrown under the bus / How it ends doesn’t change how it was.” It’s a song that honors the relationship in a meaningful way, while also preparing to move forward.

Stylistically, Weinstein has rightfully been compared to the likes of Randy Newman and Ben Folds, but here he’s more viscerally personal and revealing than either typically is, pushing more into the realm of Eels in his relentless, naturalistic exploration of the trauma associated with a major life passage. This is the sound of a heart breaking and falling to pieces on the floor, only to slowly begin to reassemble itself. It’s hard to know how many spins such a difficult album will get over the long haul, but there’s no question that Undivorceable is a captivating listen, both devastatingly honest and immensely tuneful.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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