In Hugh MacLennan's novel Two Solitudes, his titular phrase refers to the relationship between English-speaking and French-speaking Canada; they're two disparate and isolated spheres. Early on, MacLennan describes where the Ottawa River merges with the Saint Lawrence and identifies it as a meeting place of these two solitudes, writing, "If this sprawling half-continent has a heart, here it is. Its pulse throbs out along the rivers and railroads; slow, reluctant and rarely simple, a double beat, a self-moved reciprocation."
The title of Leif Vollebekk's third LP, Twin Solitude, is a nod to MacLennan's phrase. Like where the rivers merge, Twin Solitude is a meeting place of two halves — specifically, the album's two distinct sides, which represent two parts of a past relationship. This is where Vollebekk has come to find peace.
On the first side of the record, Vollebekk remains seated behind a piano, or keyboard, and is accompanied by minimal instrumentation. He writes of heartbreak and vividly of moments now out of his grasp. On "Elegy," one of Vollebekk's strongest ever pieces, he mourns a lost love, wears "a black bandana," turns to Tarot cards for guidance and struggles to find the light again. On "Into the Ether," another standout, Vollebekk fervently pleads for stability; "Quit putting me on," he repeats.
The mood changes on the second side as Vollebekk become restless and heads out the door with a guitar in hand. "Michigan" is a roaming, self-reflective folk song that finds Vollebekk throwing his Tarot cards out the window ("I'm done with healers," he sings), determined to try new things. "East of Eden" and "Telluride" have a similar adventuresome spirit to them as Vollebekk stumbles towards clarity. By "Rest," a sprawling, delicate eight-plus-minute track that sits just outside the sonic mood of either side, Vollebekk is content — at least for now.
Rarely simple, Twin Solitude is a striking display of Leif Vollebekk's talent and heart. (Secret City)