Folk Music for the End of the World

Folk Music for the End of the World

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A friend recently mentioned how he couldn’t help but listen to depressing music. “I try to find upbeat stuff, but I always end up going back to really sad music,” he said. “It’s just better.” He has a point. Unless you’re out for a rousing night on the town, pensive and existential music is usually more fitting.

Local label Yer Bird puts out a stirring compilation of songs about our only friend, the End. For more on Yer Bird found Morgan King, see Plugged In.

Charlottesville-based Yer Bird Records has just released a compilation of songs that fall into this category. Morgan King, the label’s founder and owner, came up with idea for doing an apocalypse-themed album a couple years ago, and has spent the time since contacting artists and gathering songs. Receiving more than enough material, King picked tracks that affected him the most and aptly titled them Folk Music for the End of the World.

Compilation discs often reek of marketing and self-promotion, but Yer Bird’s collection has a deep, heartfelt aura. Though the compilation brings together artists from across the country, it maintains an intimate warmth and wholeness.  Beautiful artwork by Kathleen Lolly and a thoughtful introduction by King perfectly round out the eerie theme of the album. 

Some of the songs shine brighter than others, but none feel out-of-place or forced. Alina Simone’s “Gunshots” showcases the Ukrainian-born songstress’ heavenly voice and tells a familiar tale of modern life and change. Charlottesville’s own Sarah White contributes “Part of the Story,” a sparse, lo-fi tune that is grittier than her latest full-length, White Light, but with the same relaxed, front-porch sincerity. NYC’s O’death offers “Angeline,” an upbeat piano and strings affair that shares the album’s theme through a frighteningly beautiful lens. Lines like “Now the worms they feed/And go around your feet/As you walk your naked path to hell” read like a grim declaration of death but sound like a joyous apocalyptic celebration.

The album concludes with Hezekiah Jones’ “Mississippi Sea,” a story set in the year 2043 that imagines the world after global warming has turned much of Mississippi into a body of water. Each song offers a valuable interpretation of King’s theme, but Jones’ song hits closest to home, as it builds on the hot political issue and tragedy in New Orleans. Folk Songs for the End of the World conjures grave thoughts, but its diverse beauty and loving effort proves that the world still has hope and camaraderie.