Published Jun 25, 2019Dawnbreaker lives in the land of summer, where the days are long and hazy, and the nights sweet, but melancholy. It's also a fresh start for North Carolina's Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, the singer-songwriter behind Daughter of Swords. She previously sang with folk trio Mountain Man, whose most recent album, Magic Ship, came out last year. On Dawnbreaker, ten tracks elegantly come together to tell the story of a person at the crossroads of their life, and a quiet struggle towards contentment.
Sauser-Monnig recalls many bittersweet memories throughout the album from a relationship nearing its end: "Gem" features a skipping drum beat, a delicate synth melody, and Sauser-Monnig on acoustic guitar, singing about how she misses her "abalone boy" with the "heartbeat rhythm of your gold soul." The lyrics on the album aren't always unique, but their intimacy is still evocative. "Shining Woman," one of the album's highlights, is about briefly meeting a luminous lady, and how much our narrator would like to be like her. Beyond that, it's about feeling too stuck to live one's dreams out, and Sauser-Monnig reflects this, singing "Life's gone before you know it / and excuses come so easy to me."
Slowly, our narrator find hope in the little things. On "Long Leaf Pine," she rides her bike to the lake, admiring the flora and fauna along the way, then dives into the water and embraces the sun. The lyrics, her distant but cheery voice, the subdued percussion and quiet strumming fill the mind with soothing textures and images, like an audible Monet painting.
The penultimate track, "Human," is a poignant, but transformative, moment. Sauser-Monnig asks a stranger to comfort her as she reels from the disappointment of her failed relationship: "I really wanted somebody / to hold me and to say / Sweetheart you're only human / don't blame yourself so hard." By the time a piano joins the chorus, and the bass ebbs and flows, she is the one giving herself the empathy she needs. (Nonesuch)