August 5th, 2022: Singer/songwriter Sara Syms takes us on a journey in her new cinematic and inspiring LP, The Darkest Light. The album is now available on all digital streaming platforms.
Sara Syms’ latest project The Darkest Light is an ethereal and contemplative trek through living, humanity and the self. The title track is enchanting with a gentle yet melancholic piano mixed with gorgeous strings and Syms’ bewitching voice. The use of staccato with the strings in the latter half of the song especially contributes a whimsical air to this elegant track, shifting the feeling from a sad lullaby to an unsure but hopeful walk through a heavily wooded forest. The listener feels themself being carried off to someplace scary and new, with a gentle hand on the shoulder assuring that things will be alright despite the uncertainty. It’s great as a lead-in to the journey that is the rest of this album.
The third track, “Where Do I Belong,” reflects on not knowing where to land, where to breathe, and where to root your hopes and dreams. The subtle arpeggiating of the resonant, bright guitar, gentle brushes from the drums, and an organ feature creates an atmosphere unlike any other. For any of us who have felt like we “don’t have a place,” this song is an anthem.
The album’s fourth track, “Unknown Road,” brings those haunting vocals and almost outlaw-esque guitar progressions fans have come to expect from much of her work. Syms explains, “Unknown Road” is about our connection to self discovery. Our connection to the earth. Wherever you go, there you are. We are always searching outside ourselves for what we’ve had all along. We just need to take the time to tune in and connect to our inner compass. It is also a nod to the 4 directions of the medicine wheel in spiritual practices and what each direction represents in our journey back to self. In the end, not all who wander are lost. We all eventually find what our heart is searching for.”
Track five, “The Game,” is a real standout for more reasons than one. The instrumental takes a sharp turn from the album’s trajectory thus far, bringing in almost honky-tonk, old bar stylings with a bouncing track that emphasizes how we all have multiple sides to us. The track really does feel like a game with the heavily enunciated vocals and playful arrangement. “The Game” is a highlight of the album for sure.
Track six, “World We Live In,” is reminiscent of a James Bond intro track, utilizing jazzy horn accents and organ chords to create a smooth and contemplative atmosphere.
“River of Life” could make anyone get up and dance. The use of the guitar using the dryer kind of strumming style creates even more rhythm to enjoy and dissect. This song is so blue-sy, it has so much charisma and stays full of life the entire way through. “‘River of Life’ is an homage to my mom. A so to speak, second line for her passing. The ebb and flow of love and loss. She passed away when I was 19 and continues to be a guiding light in my life. Music is something we so intimately shared, so I’ll continue to honor her through song,” Sara shares.
“Shadow Hunters” gives us more of an alternative sound. Syms gives us major themes of dark and light, love and fear, power and pain; She sings about these major contrasting elements of which ultimately still have a relationship with one another, which is very interesting to see.
“Good Times Never Last” is the true ballad that we know and love. It’s a cry out to those good times, and how starting over would make everything better. It’s a beautifully sad song about hurting, longing, and remorse. Sometimes looking back on those good times really hurt, Syms shows us how reflection feels a lot of the time.
The album’s final track, “Change in the Air,” really feels like an appropriate and thematically satisfying conclusion to The Darkest Light as a project. Listeners still hear the organ and other pre-established instrumental cues from earlier on in the album, and those really serve to give the whole project a sense of unity.
THE DARKEST LIGHT
1. “The Darkest Light”
2. “Fear and Love”
3. “Where Do I Belong”
4. “Unknown Road”
5. “The Game”
6. “World We Live In”
7. River of Life
8. Shadow Hunters
9. Good Times Never Last”
10. Change in the Air
All songs written by Sara Syms
Recorded at Esplanade Studios (New Orleans, LA)
Recorded at Neutral Sound Studio (New Orleans, LA)
Mixed by Aaron Boudreaux
Mastered by Dan Millice
Engineered by Chris Finney (Esplanade Studios)
Engineered by Aaron Boudreaux (Neutral Sound Studio)
Sara Syms on her album The Darkest Light: “I grew up as a stage pony. A performance and perfectionism driven life filled with music (piano, violin, global children’s chorus), competitive figure skating, and every other activity in between. My mother was a bit of a stage mom but also my best friend. She lived her life solely for my brother and I and her full time job as a microbiologist was dedicated to covering my international skating career expenses. She passed away when I was 19 and that shattered my world. After graduation, moved to NYC and avoided her passing for years. Numbing out, filling up my time, and “jazz hands-ing” my way through my early 20s. There came a point where I could no longer run from my past. Was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and put on medication. I’ve been in and out of therapy for the better part of my adult life and on some form of antidepressants for 17+ years. Was a life goal of mine to be free of meds and after a few failed attempts, I decided to undertake this Mt Everest of mine in the middle of the pandemic.
During my industry hiatus, I began penning a cathartic collection of songs that would become my upcoming album, The Darkest Light. Though this album was helping me deep dive into my own shadow work, it had eerie parallels to the fear and anxiety the human collective was experiencing from the pandemic, political polarization and catastrophic unknowns. Where everything we thought we knew was questioned. Nowhere to run but sit with ourselves, and somehow find our way back to the light. We live in a world of dichotomies. The sweet and the sour, the tough and the tender, the dark and the light. We can’t have one without the other. And the darkest parts of us, the ones hiding in the shadows, have the most beautiful teachings to offer us, if we are willing to go there.
Last summer (’21) I checked into residential treatment for the first time in my life. I was in an incredibly dark and scary place and it takes a lot of courage to ask for help when you need it and to face things head-on you’ve been running from for a lifetime. I clocked over 300 hours of trauma work at Integrative Life Center here in Nashville and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through, but one of the most rewarding. To look at yourself under a microscope and strip it down to nothing so you can rebuild, takes a warrior spirit.
I am incredibly grateful for the time I spent at ILC. Grateful I had the resources to be able to get this sort of help that most cannot. It was such a well-rounded integrated program with a myriad of trauma healing modalities from traditional talk therapy, art, music and movement therapy, equine therapy, breathwork, meditation, nutritional support and so much more.
I want to be an advocate and an open door when it comes to mental health and breaking down the stigma that comes with it. I am not afraid to share my struggles and want to use my music to help others heal. Aside from regular performing gigs, I’d love to find a way to share my gift with rehab centers, healing centers, retirement homes, sick kids, etc. Conversational healing through song.”