Piercing lyrical themes, bold musical statements, and haunting performances live and breathe on The Last Optimist brand new release, the sublime ‘seed – water – sun’. 

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, The Last Optimist is a project of serene, thoughtful folk music masterminded by multi-instrumentalists Markus Belanger and Doug Kwartler, with Belanger laying the bones of each song, guitars, vocals, bass, and drums, while Kwartler taking care of all other instruments, and taking production duties under his wing also.

The music on ‘seed – water – sun’ is uniformly introspective and graceful. With clean vocal deliveries and sharp lyrical ideas, the project’s songs are pieces full of eloquent, melodic, and memorable folk musings, like warm acoustics, minimalistic arrangements, and atmospheric elements to back the lush words and heartful deliveries. At the crossroads of Leonard Cohen’s left field lyrical prowess and Damien Rice’s fierce independence, The Last Optimist’s is provocative of rich mental sceneries with their descriptive words and sweet, graceful melodies. 

Starting with a pair of tunes that sum up the gist of this album’s music and words, ‘not a sound’ starts the album on a hushed and gentle breeze, courtesy of Belanger’s restrained delivery and the autumnal arrangement and composition. Featuring Danielle Pinals’s beautiful voice in a duet, the wonderfully composed piece showcases The Last Optimist’s exceedingly mature songwriting skills, starting the album with a song about silence is a refreshing move that is wonderfully executed, and the dreamy acoustic guitar-led instrumental is awe-inspiring in its modal nature that easily paints vivid scenes. The second cut ‘only two ways out’ displays the other side of The Last Optimist. A feisty piece of alt/pop/rock/folk, the tune is difficult to describe with any words other than unique. The dynamic groove and overdriven guitar chugs make a bizarre, but inviting, fusion with Belanger’s generally restrained vocal delivery in a mix that boasts with dry boominess, the exact opposite of the first cut’s dreamy nature. The poetic lyrics are also different, from hushing about silence, to crooning about war and lost soldiers, those two back-to-back songs are truly a bold start to the journey that is ‘seed – water – sun’.

Fourth cut ‘shame you left me’ truly displays the Leonard Cohen influence on Markus Belanger. From poetic, descriptive, and accessible lyrics to melodies and harmonies laced with unsettling melancholy, to off-putting rhythms that set an alarm in the brain, this shocker of a composition equally horrifies and stuns. A trip of sublime beauty and scale. From its hushed and borderline-spoken introduction to its abrupt and explosive lead guitar sections, every second and note counts. ‘hermit in the maples’ is a delightful piece of indie folk that tickles the Tom Waits tick with its unfamiliar sounding drums and thought provoking story telling. The music carries a bit of Jeff Buckley’s gentleness and a tad of Cohen’s grace, while being identifiable throughout as something else entirely, carrying The Last Optimist’s sharp-left-corner turnarounds and Belanger’s own lyrical fingerprints. Following with the bustling folk break on ‘one night in Belfast’, to a moment of romantic respite on ‘love is like a simile’, both songs rich with guitars, albeit very different sounding guitar arrangements, with the first being raspy and rowdy, and the latter slow, gentle, chic, and mature.

Finally, we come face to face with the album’s final hurrah. ‘on Monkton ridge’ is a dazzling piece of folk that starts hushed and intimate, with sweet sounding acoustic, violin, and vocals, before gradually gaining explosive grandeur, then dissipating it gently, all the while lullabying us with its sincere melodies and respectful presence. ‘on Monkton ridge’ ends the album on a mature note that leaves us satisfied and inspired. Throughout the album, The Last Optimist delivers one thoughtful musical and lyrical idea after the other, all executed with a decided direction and with a clear identity. ‘seed – water – sun’ is an unforgettable fusion of a kaleidoscope of folk colors.