Death and horror have never seemed so beautiful as they do in Mirel Wagner’s second album, “When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day,” released Monday.
The production is beyond minimalistic, with not much more than Wagner’s own guitar strums over her voice — and some sparse backing vocals, strings and guitars on only a couple of tracks — yet it’s enough to keep me entranced in her tales of love, death and pain.
The first track fools us into thinking there may be some light to this album. It starts with a nursery-rhyme sounding “1, 2, 3, 4,” but then proceeds to ask, “What’s underneath the floor?,” providing a sense of uncertainty and anxiety. Another track, “Oak Tree,” is told from the perspective of a corpse buried underneath a tree.
There are broken hearts in “What Love Looks Like” and “Taller Than Trees.” “The Dirt” paints a picture of a child on the verge of death, when Wagner sings, “You can’t eat the dirt, even if you wanna … Momma, I know I’m ready now, Just close my eyes and wake up in a new life.”
And perhaps the most somber part of the album is the ending track, “Goodnight,” in which Wagner croons, “Goodnight, darling, goodnight, I’ll push down the pillow with all of my might. Tomorrow, tomorrow, will be all right. Together, forever, now and through time.”
Wagner’s effortless take on these subjects suggests that perhaps the artist finds beauty in the dark side of life — and whether that makes her cold or heartless, her music is beautiful and almost enchanting. Plus, it appeals to the seemingly universal fascination with everything Wagner is singing about.
— Jessica Allison, for The Oklahoman
For fans of: Wilco, Dark Dark Dark,