Autumn's Grey Solace is the dream pop duo of your Twilight fantasies. The band effortlessly combines shoegaze’s characteristic lush instrumentals with ethereal wave’s airy vocals, but its mystical imagery sets them apart from other bands in those genres. They released their first album, Within the Depths of a Darkened Forest, in October 2002. On its 20th anniversary, the debut album proves its longevity, making for a perfect background track for your next afternoon stroll.
The band consists of multi–instrumentalist and composer Scott Ferrell plus vocalist and lyricist Erin Welton from St. Augustine, Fla. Ferrell’s use of guitars, bass, drums, and even the mandolin creates the haunting background music and sets the evocative scene. The real star of the show is Welton’s voice, who sings of nature, love, and longing. Ferrell told Bystanders in 2008 that “autumn is a season of solace. Summer is over and winter is coming. The name … reflects that feeling.” A revisit to the relatively unknown band’s debut album this October will transport you to the otherworldly realm that Ferrell and Welton create.
The first track, “Resonant Dusk,” seamlessly sets the atmospheric and plaintive tone of the album. The instrumentals open with quick guitar plucking that builds into a distinct melody, soon joined by the characteristic deafening and distorted guitar of shoegaze. But unlike that of the genre, the instrument is muted throughout. The attention focuses on Welton’s vocals which are extremely clear, but the words themselves are indecipherable. Like that of their major inspiration, Cocteau Twins, the unintelligible nature of the lyrics makes for a unique listening experience. Listeners are transported because of the overall sound rather than the content of the lyrics, which consists of motifs of nightfall such as, “Find all fireflies / Hurry and scurry for shelter / Alone in the darkest earth.”
“Forgotten, Fossilized, Archaic” is their most popular song, with a little over 880,000 plays on Spotify. As with the previous song, the lyrics are sparse, but a bit more understandable. Welton croons in a siren–esque way of “Try to like solitude / Realized all I had / Failed nostalgia.” Then the chorus continues with the three words of the title, before developing into “Haltered by simplicity / Desires conjured / Desperate nostalgia.” The lyrics leave much interpretation to the listener, but overall are melancholic in nature and full of desperate yearning.
“Shadows of Moonlit Nights” is the farthest Autumn’s Grey Solace strays from their usual sound on this album. Welton sings in her lower register, while maintaining the angelic vocals in the background. The lyrics are more extensive and tell a story that the listener can follow. “A howling moon arousing the forest / Children of the stars fall to play.” Listening to the lyrics, it feels less like a song and more as if Welton is crooning a foreboding folktale to village children. Welton warns, “The waning moon sets to rest / Withering a night sky to a zombie grey light.”
Arguably the strongest song is “Lost.” The instrumentals are entrancing, but more upbeat than what we’ve heard so far. Welton harmonizes with vocals as she sings “Now I’m all alone / Far from you.” “So mark my words / I’ll be back” is wistful and poetic, promising a lover or a forest of her return. The entire song exemplifies how Welton and Ferrell compliment each other perfectly, which is my main takeaway from revisiting this album.
The title track brings the album to a close, and reminds us why we are listening. A mere 35 minutes in total, the album ends with consistent hypnotic imagery and sylvan metaphors without being redundant. Listening to the entire album allows the listener to escape to the Pacific Northwest in the thick of a celestial forest, the haziness of the music akin to that of the fog surrounding you. The album can really only be listened to in a specific setting or mindset. This October, the duo begs you to appreciate nature’s enchanting beauty while listening to the album. Two decades since its release, Within The Depths Of A Darkened Forest does not bore due to its inventiveness. Like a perennial plant, the album leaves the forefront, but always reemerges during its prime autumnal season.