I’ve been talking about this EP a lot lately. Thad has made an appearance on the blog thrice in 2015, each time building up towards this release. I’m happy to report that it has met my expectations; The Ridge is the best EP I’ve heard this year.
I’ve always been impressed with Thad Kopec’s musicality. The layers and atmospheres are consistently lush, woven and blended to create a delicate experience. The instrumentation is even richer and more cinematic here, with sweeping orchestral arrangements and tender acoustic moments. Influences are drawn from modern and past singer-songwriters, but Thad has carved out his own niche. No one will accuse him of sounding too much like the others in this subgenre.
Thad’s vocals have improved since his debut Heart of Man, but his lyrics have become more hard-to-follow in this process. While his first two releases were fairly straight-forward in their ideas, The Ridge and preceding single “You Will Know Who I Am” have been more obscure. This will be a turn-off for some, but there is still depth to the imagery used in the songs. Thad’s previous work leads me to believe that the lyrics are very intentional, so I am willing to take the time to explore these lyrics; and, personally, this additional effort makes the thematic discoveries much more satisfying.
“Every Drop” is a standout musically and lyrically, and it is by far the most straight-forward track on the release. You can read my in-depth analysis of it here. Between the folksy lyrics of this track and the Western flourishes in “Guardian,” images of definitively American landscapes and experiences come to mind.
On a smaller scale, The Ridge seems to tell a story of a younger man in search of his father throughout a woodsy land that seems more like Europe than the American West suggested by the music. This narrative accounts for some of the symbolism. However, the rest of the release balances out the experience to become something more transcendent of culture and more definitively human than any specific story.
Many songs on The Ridge speak of longing and uncertainty: both universal experiences. A lot of questions remain unanswered, and there is a certain layer of grimness to the EP. Lyrics such as “The searching never ends, my son” and “If I die here in the wild, the vines will bury me/Keep my body from the birds” are undeniably bleak. However, the juxtaposition of these lines with the beauty of nature and hopeful – albeit vague – reassurances suggests that these questions and longings aren’t entirely bad. For instance, the closing track repeats that “The owl wakes up at night.” Perhaps what this means is that even in our dark seasons, there is life and beauty and meaning.
And this concept embodies the release. From the “little bits of joy” to the “viper’s pit,” Thad Kopec paints a realistic, irresolute picture of our life. I hope that we as humans can see the beyond our doubts that our lives are beautiful and meaningful even when we’re falling apart. You’ve done great work, Thad. We can’t wait for more.
The Ridge is available on iTunes and other major online retailers (but go with iTunes; they pay their artists best). Be sure to check out Thad Kopec at the following links.