Beams' 'Requiem for a Planet' Is a Stirring Swan Song

BY Emma SchusterPublished May 2, 2024


The end of the world has come, or at least it has for Beams. The Toronto-based psych-folk band's concept album Requiem for a Planet tells the story of a destroyed planet, in retrospect. Recorded in a secluded barn nested in the Shawangunk mountains in New Paltz, NY, Requiem for a Planet evokes the deep-ache feeling of memories being passed through generations, a set of oral teachings that works to catalogue all the beauty that once grew from our long-destroyed home. 

The band's fourth studio album opens with "Childlike Empress," a song with haunting single chords that echo against a vivid description of the destruction of the planet. Anna Mērnieks-Duffield sings the story passively, as if she knew there was nothing she could do to halt the unfolding carnage. The song evolves into a spiraling cacophony, but Mērnieks-Duffield's voice remains calm, guiding us on a serene path through the chaos. "Childlike Empress" is nihilism at its best; accepting and without panic.

"Starlight" shifts the tone toward the upbeat and straightforward, a whiplash-inducing counter to "Childlike Empress" that conjures Beams seated around a campfire, getting carried away with their story before switching to a calmer tune. After this opening jolt, Requiem for a Planet blends seamlessly between each track, creating a compelling throughline. The album acts as a time capsule, immortalizing the beauty of Earth and the power in her natural systems for those too young to remember what it was like. 

In the album's second half, "A.W.I.L" explodes into harmony and light with Mērnieks-Duffield's belt carrying that momentum into the final stretch. "It's All Around You" follows with the same push, harmonizing with the earlier chaos of "Childlike Empress." 

The final track on the album is "Intangible Holds," which asks us to reconnect with our deep community connections, a call to draw upon these connections to preserve what little of the planet that we have. Every note of Requiem for a Planet has been thoughtfully placed to create a communal space for its own storytelling. Beams has a powerful understanding of the power of empty space, using long, patient breaths of silence — like the stars in "Shadow of a Shadow," the emptiness between each sound holds an entire universe. 

Requiem for a Planet is both a cautionary tale to protect our planet and a promise that no matter the outcome, there will be stories left to tell.


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