Nearly a decade after releasing its deeply moving and profoundly beautiful album Rabbit Songs, the Brooklyn-based band Hem has returned with their new album Departure and Farewell. Don’t miss Hem when they perform at The Ballroom at the Taft on Saturday April 20th!
The lodgepole pine doesn’t yield its seed willingly. Seasons can come and go and years—even decades—can pass, and the seeds remain locked in the cones. There is only one catalyst for this unusual tree to reproduce: fire. As flames rise to the tree’s crown, the cones open, bringing forth the seeds of new life.
It’s a striking image, one that formed the basis of “The Jack Pine,” a song that stands as the centerpiece of Hem’s extravagantly bittersweet five-years-in-the-making album, Departure and Farewell. It’s also a perfect summation of this unusual chapter in the band’s life, which started as a breakup before becoming a rebirth—a point lost on none of the members.
The long awaited new album from Hem, Departure and Farewell, will be released April 2 on Waveland Records. “Making music that’s categorically neither country nor folk but a flexible citified mix of the two, its songs send one branch toward the hymnal, another into droning soft rock, and a third toward the kind of film music that evokes prairie sunsets…Beautiful,” writes The New York Times of the band’s process.
Hem is Sally Ellyson (vocals), Dan Messé (piano, accordion, glockenspiel), Gary Maurer (guitar, mandolin), and Steve Curtis (guitar, mandolin, banjo, back-up vocals). Departure and Farewell was co-produced by Maurer and Messé and recorded at Sear Sound. Of the new release, Messé notes, “Hem has always been about endings in one way or another (we were named after the ending of a dress, after all), but never more so than here in these songs.” Ellyson furthers, “This album is about loss, about the fear of loss and about the trajectory of life…it was one of the more emotionally resonating albums to record.”
Formed in 1999, Hem self-released their debut Rabbit Songs in 2002 to critical acclaim, establishing themselves as one of the most promising bands to emerge from Brooklyn. Since then, they’ve released four full-length albums, including the music for the 2009 Public Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, for which they received a nomination for Outstanding Music in a Play for the 2009/2010 Drama Desk Awards.