By Cher Guevara, Staff Writer
A couple months after releasing their first EP, non-binary singer-songwriter Chamomile released their debut full-length album Back Before I Found My New Name. Recorded solo with just their acoustic guitar, the album is the story of their self-discovery and transition. It’s desperate, hopeful, and ultimately, a celebration.
Opening with “Summer Fields,” Chamomile balances a rather bright sounding guitar riffs with lyrics that set a somewhat dark stage, singing,
“Maybe it’s wanderlust / Maybe I need someone to trust / Maybe my diet’s bad / Maybe I’m just going mad / Guess these chains around my heart / Just made things heavy, slow, and hard / Hope summer fields come back to set me free.”
Listening to the jumpy riffs on their guitar, they paint the picture that those summer fields will indeed set them free.
“Apple Pie” keeps up the theme of pining for something, but in this case, it’s not internal freedom, but the love and validation of another. I’ve heard and reviewed more than my fair share of love songs, but this is the first one I’ve heard that compares the desire for human connection to desserts.
Chamomile tempts their potential lovers or maybe potential just friends with the prospect of having pie together. Or maybe the pie is a metaphor for something else. It’s love-pining poetry, so who the hell knows? The point is, it’s a heartfelt little number and it makes one desire not only the human touch, but also pie.
“Quarantine” hits like a motherfucker. Not through the heaviness of the riffs or anything, the guitar here is frail and lonely sounding, but the starkness of the lyrics.
We’ve all been going a little sideways, a little stir-crazy in these uncertain times, times that have been necessarily lonely. But Christ, they hit right in the chest, singing out, “Here at home again / It’s Quarantuesday / Really didn’t need extra isolation / I spend too much time alone / Lying in my head already waiting for the coming moment / Do I always wander?”
Sure, there have been other singers and musicians who have written songs about the pandemic and the loneliness of it, but this is the most honest one I’ve heard from a queer perspective.
The first half of the album to comes to a close with “Goodbye July,” a song that shows Chamomile trying to be a bit more hopeful in their situation, singing out that they are not a nite owl, but a solar being who needs the sunshine to sing, play, and live. They hope one day to be able to fly south for the winter, but for now, they’ll make the best of their situation, strumming their light-hearted blues.
“World Stop” opens the second half, and it’s another self-reflective piece, with Chamomile asking when the world stops and what happens at the end. Will they find rest? Will they find peace? But the serious reflection is not without a bit of humor as they sing “When does the world stop? I gotta pee.”
And as they sing in the last verse, maybe the journey doesn’t stop at all; “Searching for the day / When it’ll be alright, okay / And then we turn the earth on to the other side”
Chamomile address the crux of the album in “Hey Girl,” a cut that starkly lays out their internal conflict and their desire to come into their truth and start living openly. While the chords played are sparse and stark, the lyrics are some of the most hopeful of the album, with them singing directly to themselves that everything will be OK.
It’s a cut that should resonate with every trans person out there and in a just world, would be playing on underground radio shows and podcasts across the country.
“Rearranging” continues on the same theme, getting personal about their life before transitioning and what it takes to rebuild a life after trying so hard to wear the masks of society for so long. But like “Hey Girl”, the starkness is undercut by the hopefulness of the lyrics, with Chamomile chanting joyously “I am not the same person I was” and that is the point, isn’t it?
The album comes to a close with “Friend”, another song that looks for strength in the human connection. Chamomile sings openly how frail physically and emotionally they may be, but if someone needs them, they will walk through heaven and hell for their person.
The song and the album end with their simple guitar chords and their voice echoing, “We’ll be together in the end / Because, my friend / I love you” And in these times of loneliness and quarantine, what more could you ask for?
Chamomile is a new artist and they are still learning their chops, but this was a pretty damn good debut LP; the simple song structure, the despair and hope of the lyrics, and the ultimate desire for human companionship make this a gem to be uncovered in the later days of this doomed year. The album is available on Bandcamp and it’s certainly worth spending a few bones to hear a sharp young up-and-comer.
Back Before I Found My New Name is available now on Bandcamp.