Sarah Beth Tomberlin is the daughter of a pastor, and attended a Christian school before dropping out. Through the plaintive folk of At Weddings, she searches for an identity distinct from her faith. At the same time the album is inspired by Christian music, creating a profound tension at her music's heart.
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Saddle Creek finds its quintessential voice in ‘At Weddings’, surely one of the saddlecreekiest records ever released. Full of droning guitar strums and emo hymnal, the record is gonna floor anyone on the lookout for a sad songwriter record to tweak our summer into an autumn. Bring the rain and bring it now; this record will be here to stay by September.
Sarah Beth Tomberlin plays simple music but makes it sound grandiose: opener “Any Other Way” is proof and a half, its quick guitar strums disguising a tune of sparkling production that somehow reminds me of Grouper and Coldplay at the same time. The record segues seamlessly into “Untitled 1”, a tune operating at a dead-of-night sparseness, the guitar picking full of melody and movement while feeling lost and languishing. The best moments of the records feel like this, offering signs of life that hasten and then slow as they deal with the tensions of faith and loneliness. “You Are Here” is kinda bright and major key, though I can never be sure, with this record.
‘At Weddings’ is effective with very little, though it does suggest a songwriter happy to fill her music up a little more, around the corners: her themes of faith, of losing and keeping it, are given a revarant treatment on tunes like “Seventeen”, but then obfuscated by a loud, watery production that makes Tomberlin’s song feel larger than the life it describes -- much the way life feels, when you think about it. They might be acoustic songs at heart, but Tomberlin has made metaphors out of the way she presents these songs, speaking to the emotional task of growing up and the instability of living, as she described it, in the 'cult' of Christian school. A brilliant release.
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