When Eliza Edens emerged with her 2020 release Time Away from Time, she was already applying the language of pop-influenced indie folk to existential themes. The Berkshires-born artist, now based in Brooklyn by way of Colorado, is no stranger to transition, examining love, death and nature in turns. Throughout her debut, she takes long journeys through the San Juan Mountains and her own subconscious to find answers. “I am only a moment to a mountain,” she muses in the title track. Later, the meditative detachment is lost in a sampled recording of her grandmother playing piano as Edens repeats, “Will you still be around?”
Now, with the release of We’ll Become the Flowers, her search takes on a new intensity. Edens penned the album after a breakup and receiving news of a devastating diagnosis for her mother—in the wake of both heartbreaks, her wrestlings with partnership and mortality grow urgent and personal. Drawing from the wellsprings of Nick Drake, Laura Marling and Andy Shauf, We’ll Become the Flowers eschews its predecessor’s serenity for a new, more vulnerable reckoning.
Opening track “How” springs forth with a litany, posed over a driving guitar and otherworldly lap steel from Dexter Wolfe. Here, Edens considers the daunting task of creating a future, questioning her own ability to “start a home, grow all the things that I’ve ignored.” Real-world travels “from north to south” haven’t helped her to transcend, nor have forays into pop psychology—alluding to Bessel van der Kolk, she recalls “weeding through the trauma in my bones” to “forgive and not keep score.” Though the song is preoccupied with the big picture, Edens makes room for the acutely personal: The image of an ex blithely drinking coffee “like there’s nothing wrong” mourns a future that could have been.
In “Westlawn Cemetery,” Edens is confronted with what lies at the finish line of the life she balks at building. Meandering through a hometown graveyard, she considers the buried who have “figured it out” and the cyclical nature of nurturing—now a caretaker, it’s she who makes her mother dinner at night. Adding to the poignancy is her mother’s longtime career as a professional gardener, her hands buried deep in the soil “where we all end up in time.” Steady electronic drums add movement to Edens’ lyrics, as if we’re walking right alongside her.
“I Needed You,” meanwhile, begs for a life that’s less complicated. “I want a simple house, a simple man,” Edens declares in the first lyric over a fuzzed-out twang that lends the track a rootsy edge. The lyrics return to “How’s” coffee-cup snapshots and linger on the comfort of a flannel shirt before giving way to an imagist mantra that would make Adrianne Lenker proud: “Big heart, highway mind, rock and roll, baby, turn the dial.” It’s a heartbreak anthem, but without the schmaltz of a country love song. Instead of pain, Edens concludes with a graceful kiss-off, admitting, “I want a simple way to love you, but I never seem to know which way’s the wind.”
Over the course of We’ll Become the Flowers, Edens seems to recognize that some questions don’t have easy answers, a confrontation she meets head-on in the bedroom pop-inflected “Tom and Jerry.” Plaintive ‘80s-ballad synths flow into a Frankie Cosmos bassline, lending a wistful touch as Edens conducts a relationship postmortem. “Was it the drive up 95?” she asks, remembering a roadside argument and a stalling stick-shift. Amid debating wrong turns and a plaintive cry of “You gave no reason,” a new perspective on the breakdown emerges, with Edens ultimately recognizing that any attempt to solve it is only “a see and saw of who takes the blame.” In the end, she decides, the couple’s repeated attempts to make it work are only a cat and mouse chasing each other’s tails.
Towards the end of the album, Edens finally makes peace with the unknown, letting go of this tumultuous relationship, as well as her interlocked fears of the future and death. “Dawn looks a little clearer now,” she remarks in “Jimmy Come Back,” before acknowledging, “I love you, but I have to let you go.” Later, the haunting “To See Through” finds her facing the monster of grief and welcoming it in, while in “Julia,” she decides that “sorrow don’t keep as good company.” “You can’t always fear goodbyes,” she concludes. “Hope is the only seed worth planting.”
Annie Parnell is a host and writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her writing has appeared in The Boot, PopMatters, Audiofemme and elsewhere. She can be found identifying native plant species in her backyard, on Twitter at @avparnell, or at her website, avparnell.wordpress.com.