For those who are longtime fans of the band “Nickel Creek,” April was the culmination of nine long years of waiting for original work. Nickel Creek’s ambitious 6th studio album, “A Dotted Line,” debuted on April 1. Since then, it has reached #7 on the Billboard Top 200 and has held the #1 position on the bluegrass Billboard Chart for four weeks straight. “A Dotted Line” has been fairly well received by critics and fans alike. But the best thing the album has to offer comes in the way of its progressive style, well-crafted lyrics, and the hope it inspires in Nickel Creek’s fans for their future.
After their “indefinite hiatus” (leaving us fans uncertain but not without a sliver of hope for the future), Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins, and Chris Thile went different directions. They each spent time creating their own solo albums, and they joined or started new bands, like Thile’s Punch Brothers. In looking at the eloquently put lyrics expressing what seems to be the pain and pleasures of the last nine years, this new music represents the beginning of a new chapter. Which, for those of us who wondered if these three would ever “get the band back together,” is thrilling.
The emergence of this new CD comes with a new pop-progressive style. Songs like “Elephant in the Corn” and “21st of May” echo notes of past albums. However, offerings like “You Don’t Know What’s Going On” and the cover of “Mother Mother’s” song “Hayloft” show listeners that picking up traditional instruments never necessitates an adherence to traditional styles. This is not a surprising turn of events considering Thile’s work since “Nickel Creek’s” hiatus have been even more progressive than “A Dotted Line”. (Check out Thile’s Album, “Deceiver” or the ‘Punch Brothers’ Album, “Who’s Feeling Young Now?”)
One thing on this new album, however, has not changed: Nickel Creek’s ability to craft songs with both meaning and honesty. This album, though structured differently than past efforts, is no different in this regard. Consider just one set of lines from “Love of Mine” (in my opinion the best song on the record) where singer Thile reflects on the realities of past relationships:
“Now I’m stuck here trying to not remember,
For all these pretty words it wasn’t her but love that I adored.
It’s my love I adored.” (1)
In three short lines, Nickel Creek’s well-crafted lyrics show their continued ability to see beyond the obvious. There is no, “everything you own in a box to the left” here. Instead we have self-reflection and honesty leading to the realization that he may have only been in love with love itself. In a new generation that craves honesty and humility, but is often offered superficial versions of both, it is no surprise that Nickel Creek’s authentic lyrics resonate with our hearts. It is for all these reasons that we are excited that the band is, indeed, back together.
Nickel Creek’s return also represents something more that we all should value: the notion that life’s ups and downs should not keep us from hope. Instead they ought to give us fuel to fire our passions, and inspiration to follow our dreams. Life lessons can, if we let them, provide wisdom and experience toward our next good endeavor, and that is just what Nickel Creek has done with “A Dotted Line.” Perhaps the place where they ended up, musically or otherwise, is not something you will love. But that does not mean they failed or got lost during their pursuit of identity and innovation. The real truth here, is that anytime we come out on the other side of a journey of self-discovery with something left to say, we must count ourselves blessed.
Listen Up! is a continuing series featuring music reviews crafted from hours of contemplation by Medici staff as they process life through the lens of the music they love! Share with us albums we should consider for future reviews or pitch an idea for a review you would like to write by emailing us at email@example.com!
Image used under the creative commons license courtesy of Rex Hammock: http://bit.ly/1fKc6Z3