Seth Glier Mixes Musical Diversity & Optimism Via ‘The Coronation’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Seth Glier isn’t the only songwriter to take pen to paper during the pandemic, but he may be one of the few to come away from the experience with a feeling of optimism. On “The Coronation,” the title track off his sixth album for MPress Records, he expresses his belief that we can now all come together to build a better world. The song is fueled by plucky strings and silky layered vocals and is provided extra texture by using a Dan Bau (a Vietnamese zither) and Viola Da gamba (a gut-stringed member of the violin family) on the chorus. At the same time, Griffin Goldsmith (of Dawes) handles the drums. 

The Grammy-nominated Glier sings “When this storm is all over/And there’s no risk of exposure/Will we still stand where we stood/Will it be back to business as usual/Or can we build a world more beautiful/Than we ever thought we could.” These thought-provoking lyrics, combined with an uplifting melody, make this song the perfect introduction to this follow-up to Glier’s 2017 release “Birds”.

The Coronation finds the Western Massachusetts based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist at the top of his game, crafting 13 songs that are as diverse as anything he’s done, yet focused in the way they explore our need to do better and grow as human beings, even when faced with the most difficult of situations. Elements of folk, pop, and electronica are heard in this work as strings, horns, and synths are liberally used to complement Glier’s expressive voice aw well as his piano and guitar playing. 

Never one to shy away from topical issues, “A Day in America” addresses school shootings and the fear it instills in children. A mournful string section further adds to the gravity of the subject matter. Driven by an ‘80s synth sound and some steady drums and bass, “If It Wasn’t For You” was inspired by Noble Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai who credited her captors in the Taliban with making her the person she is today. And on “Poison in the Roots,” one of the many tunes here that Glier co-wrote with Steve Seskin, he duets with Everett Bradley on a song about the systemic racism that benefits from an infectious chorus and some funky slap bass courtesy of Jay White.  Fortunately, Glier can tackle these hot-topic issues without getting preachy. Instead, he appeals to our emotions as he questions and comments on the injustices around him. 

 “The Coronation” is also full of moments where Glier looks inward. “A Gift” is a powerful number that deals with betrayal as he sings in a voice full of anger:  “Ask Anybody/I am not somebody who forgets.” While the mood changes to sadness on “Till Further Notice,” written in the early days of the pandemic, and dealing with the death of John Prine and the uncertainty of the current times. Glier softly sings as he accompanies himself on the piano to create a moment of gentle beauty and tenderness.

Glier is adept at shifting moods and genres, and that is part of what makes this such an enticing listen. The production, which was primarily handled by Glier and his longtime collaborator Ryan Hommel, is first-rate and the intricate arrangements do more than serve as a backdrop for Glier’s vocals as they manage to stand on their own. 

Be it the power of the lyrics of the nuanced soundscapes Glier has created, “The Coronation” is the kind of record that listeners will take away something new with each listen. And while Glier’s songs may not change the world, they will no doubt provide some hope and comfort for listeners as they navigate these difficult times.

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