Published Oct 09, 2020If folk music often takes one on a journey, Alexia Avina's own life until this point certainly mirrors that: born and raised in Southeast Asia, the American singer-songwriter was based in Montreal for much of the last decade, and now finds herself living in rural Massachusetts. With Avina's spacious soundscapes, the 11 tracks of new album Unearth possess a beautiful flow, as one would expect from minimalist folk.
On Unearth, Avina digs deep into the emotional well, unafraid of what she might discover, her introspection hopefully leading to growth. It's perhaps why the lyricism is so stark and sparse; there is clear restraint, the emotions still raw and unexplored. The opening song "Cups" considers the challenges of communication in a relationship: "You can say what you want to but that won't make you listen," Avina sings with weary conviction. On the tender ballad "Inner Garden", she quietly hopes that, "In time, we'll start to see eye to eye."
Avina's voice flits between ethereal vulnerability and striking determinism. The aching yearning of "Fit Into" sees Avina lower her defences as she ponders changing herself to satisfy another ("Fit into him / I wanna try / I wanna try / I wanna glow"); as the momentous "Night Sky" brings the record to a close, she sounds more confident and free of doubt.
Given the sparseness of the words, the album lives in its instrumentation. The tender guitar patterns and silvery cymbals create a safe cocoon for Avina's thoughtful introspection to flourish at its own pace. The four lines of "Feeding That Beast" are perhaps the most encapsulating of the messiness of relationships: "Feeding that beast / I wouldn't know / And when I held him / I thought I was holding gold"; as the writer David Foster Wallace put it, "How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it's just words." (Topshelf)