The stage was set for Noam Weinstein’s latest, On Waves, to be a downer, a tearjerker of epic proportions. Written and recorded during a time when Weinstein lost his mother and gained a son, odds are that this wasn’t going to be anything but a musing on life and death.
And with 15 songs no less.
But oh, how good it feels to be wrong. Yes, there are tunes that make you reflect, that can get the room dusty, but this is more of a celebration and not a funeral, and for Weinstein, getting through the record was key to him coming to grips with all the changes in his personal life.
“It’s a helpful part of the grieving process for me,” said Cambridge’s Weinstein. “And one of the things that really made me grateful to have songwriting and music as an outlet over the past year is how it allowed me both to really focus on my mom and on missing her at the same time as it gave me an escape from it. That was something that kind of surprised me in a way and I hadn’t really fully appreciated that music can offer both those things at once.”
Such foundation-shaking events could lead someone in any number of directions, many of them not good, at least for the artistic process. But for Weinstein, his eighth album is clearly his best, even if it is the most personal, something he’s never paid much mind to.
“I guess I haven’t really made a distinction when I’m writing about what feels personal or not personal,” he said. “I usually try to make that decision based on how well I feel a song communicates, and I try not to shy away from sharing something because of its intimacy because I feel like that would just leave me some pretty hollow material to work with.”
And what has resulted here is an album that is – for want of a better phrase – made for grown-ups. Teenagers looking for the next party anthem or an ode to summer love need not apply. Yes, that might cut off a demographic or two, but for the rest of us that have gone through everything Weinstein writes about, it’s a reminder that whatever we’re experiencing, there’s someone else who has felt those same things. It’s comforting. And what makes it even better is that, yes, it’s a REAL album. That’s shocking in these days of iTunes singles and EPs, but a welcome surprise.
“In the past, I would say I was very conscious to err on the side of keeping things as slim as possible because I know it’s easy to get tired of a particular artist’s aesthetic or story in one sitting,” Weinstein admits. “And this time, if anything, I just decided that wasn’t something that should be my job to worry about. I should try to share the songs I wanted to share, and people were either going to listen to them or not.
“Unfortunately, it’s a little rarer nowadays that we sit down and listen to an album start to finish,” he continues. “On the other hand, the flipside of that is that we’re so often listening to individual songs or making our own playlists, that I kind of felt like I’m gonna record whatever songs I want to share, and give people the freedom to listen to all or none. We still make albums these days, and people can choose how they want to ingest them, and in a way, that’s sort of freeing. I’m just gonna put them out there and let you take what you can from it.”
There’s plenty to take away from On Waves, whether you’re soaking in the lyrics or just enjoying the hooks and the musical performances. It’s almost timeless in its approach and content, though taking the “almost” out of the equation is something only years of repetitive listening will do. But as the man who wrote it, Weinstein hopes that at the very least, the album captures this moment in his life in musical form.
“If I can try to be true to who I am and what I’m feeling now, the hope is that it’s honest enough that it remains honest as time goes by,” he said. “It won’t necessarily reflect where I’m at in the future, but it will remain a portal into my heart today.
“I need to feel that it’s essential to my life and to my heart to write songs,” Weinstein continues. “I don’t know if I need to be certain that people will connect with them as well as I hope. I don’t need to be certain, but I need to be hopeful that there’s value in what I’m doing.”
Noam Weinstein plays Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 3 in NYC on Friday, February 26. For tickets, click here