Erik Walters of Silver Torches has grown up.
Often when we say this of an artist, it speaks to big leaps and enormous changes. Huge pushes forward in style and a radically new sound.
But that’s not how growing up works. Growing up is a slow, hard-won road. It is set backs and tiny steps. It is a slow waking up to yourself and the world around you.
On his debut album, Heatherfield, Walters grappled with the reality of new adulthood - relationships, finding his purpose. It was nostalgic for the easy days of youth, it was optimistic for what was coming.
But in the interim years, Walters has changed, as we all inevitably do. The space between the early twenties and the late twenties is a riotous one, and with his new album, Let It Be a Dream, he comes back to the studio with more nuance, but fewer answers.
Recorded at Studio X, Hall of Justice, and the home of the producer, Andy Park, Let It Dream dives deeper into the fears we have as we near the apex of young adulthood - the fear that we’ve been left behind. The realization that we’re not the center of the universe. As Walters sings, with vocal luminary Courtney Marie Andrews, on “At the Lantern”:
I’m getting older every day
Still waiting for the sea to change
For a chance to make things better
Chasing that elusive dream
I had when I was seventeen
When my future was unfettered
But not all darkness is despair. As the grip of nostalgia loosens, as heartache clarifies into the fear underneath it, Let It Be a Dream shifts to allow beams of light in after everything has collapsed. But they aren’t bright like a sunrise. They are shifting - the relief that comes when you’ve realized a hard truth. Greg Leisz’s pedal steel sifts through the rubble on “I Can’t Lie”, a track that breathes life into one of the few Americana centered songs.
Hurts me just to think
That you had your reasons
And I thought I had mine
If I ask you forgiveness
Would that be a crime?
Breaking away from the standard singer-songwriter fare, Walters adds synths to tracks like “If I Reach”, ripped out of a John Hughes fever dream. It is an exploration not into a style of music, but into a tapestry of the second coming-of-age, the period that teen movies ignore and rom-coms brush over. The period when you descend into the depths of yourself to find something other than comfort - to find yourself.
Let It Be a Dream is that torn map to the center of growing up, full of folded corners and wandering, rife with questions, and, just like all of us, waiting to be pieced together.