Admittedly, Mike Kershaw’s music is new to me, and his style is not something I typically listen to. However, I have found Ice Age
to be a detailed and complex album, definitely worthy of attention. The lyrics are hauntingly beautiful, and the keyboard driven music draws upon music from the 1970s and 80s, yet it still strikes me as being mysterious and unique. The steady drums and the interplay of the soft guitar make it all the more enjoyable to listen to.
Interestingly enough, after listening to the album, it struck me as being very “northern European.” Being an American with strictly northern and northeastern European ancestry, this music seems vaguely familiar. It is cold, yet warm underneath. It seems unapproachable at first, but once you give it a listen, it draws you in. Ice Age is an album that I believe J.R.R. Tolkien’s character Túrin Turambar, from The Silmarillion, would have on his iPod. If you haven’t read the book, you have no idea what I’m talking about. If you have, I think you might agree that this album has a very dark, brooding, and foreboding nature to it, much like Túrin. The album questions the future while looking back to warmer and happier days.
Ice Age maintains a very serious tone throughout the album, yet it becomes steadily more upbeat as the album progresses. Lyrically, the album is more hopeful in the beginning, focusing on a remembrance of happier times, yet still acknowledging turmoil ahead. As the album moves on, the lyrics become darker and focus on mere survival in the impending ice age. Yet, through all of that, aurally the album becomes more upbeat beginning with the 7th (of 9) song, “Tomorrow’s Door.” There is a distinct turn in the album with that song. The pace of the music quickens, almost as if someone has turned a pleasant walk into a jog. By the end the jog turns into a run. I find it interesting that Mr. Kershaw chose to make the album lyrically darker as it became aurally brighter. It reminds me of a bright winter day in northern Illinois, where the sun is shining, yet the temperature is -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Things can seem bright and cheery, but they really aren’t.
With that said, the cover art for this album is perfect. You see remnants of civilization, with what I believe is a streetlamp, with glaciers rising behind it, and in the shadow of the ice age, you see a single, solitary individual. You see the brightness of the sun reflecting off the ice and snow, yet the lyrics remind you of the cold and despair. It isn’t often when the artwork for an album so perfectly depicts the point the music is trying to get across.
Interspersed throughout the lyrics of the album, I found a gem that I particularly like. In the 5th song, entitled “Blossom Falls,” Kershaw sings:
We give our lives to progress
We pour them down the drain
These lines could not be more true, and he echoes the same sentiment elsewhere in the album. So often people devote their lives to an Aristotelian ideal of progress without remembering the mistakes and consequences of the past. When we do that, we wage the risk of wasting our lives by making the same past mistakes. Well said Mr. Kershaw. The lyrics of this album, for me, are definitely the best part of the music.
In the end, Ice Age, I believe, may take some effort to enjoy. To appreciate the complexity of the album, one really needs to devote their whole attention to it for the duration of the album. Believe me, though, it is worth it. I look forward to future releases from Mike Kershaw. The haunting beauty of his deep voice, the keyboards, drums, and guitars makes for an enthralling album.
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