March 22, 2016
Less than a month ago, I had never heard of the Oh Hellos, but now they are one of my favorite bands to listen to. I was skeptical at first since I don’t normally gravitate towards the folk genre, but after listening to “Dear Wormwood,” their newest album, I was converted, and it’s all that I’ve listened to for the last two weeks. Musically, The Oh Hellos do an amazing job. Not only is the album very well produced, but the lyrics are extremely deep and well written. If The Oh Hellos’ are a non-Christian band, then they’re the most Christian non-Christian band that I’ve ever heard. “Dear Wormwood” is a concept album, something I personally am a sucker for, that deals with ending this horrid relationship with sin that we’ve so long held onto. The title is taken from the stage production “Dear Wormwood,” which is itself a stage adaptation of “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis.
The album starts with the beautifully orchestrated “Prelude” that gives the album a sense of epicness right from the start. It gets the listener ready to experience the rest of the album. It swells into this amazing ending before fading out on a more reserved note the sets the tone for the next song on the track.
Following “Prelude” is “Bitter Water”. This song has a very laid back, folky feel to it that I think well represents The Oh Hellos’ sound as a whole. The mandolin melody line is very fun to listen to, but the fun feel of the song misrepresents the true meaning of the lyrics. It can be very easy to miss the tension in statements like “lovely bitter water” and how that refers to our own addictive relationship with sin.
I was very close to writing that “Caesar” is my favorite track on the album. I enjoy the feel of it, and I absolutely love the lyrical work here. “Caesar” would not feel out of place in an Easter service. It talks about our coming King and how the world is waiting for His return. It calls us to wait for Him and to look for the signs of His coming because He IS coming back.
“Soldier, Poet, King” is yet another song on this album that has really deep meaning hidden beneath a fun and lively exterior. Underneath this Irish-folk sound, there’s an amazing promise that Jesus (the soldier, poet, king) is going to return to set everything in this world right again. It is an immensely hopeful idea that puts a smile on your face and joy into your heart.
“Dear Wormwood”, the title track, is my actual favorite. It has this haunting tone to it that sends chills down my spine every time that I give it a listen. This song acts as a personal message to our “wormwoods” (the demons, fears, and sins that weigh us down). The song boldly states that “I know who you are now”, “I know who I am now”, and that “I declare you my enemy”. While these may be seemingly simple ideas, in light of the Gospel and of Scripture these truths can change everything. It’s a beautiful idea that is coupled with an equally beautiful music backing.
If you can’t tell, I highly recommend this album to anybody and everybody.
-Nick Shepherd, Contributing Writer
this article appeared in Vol. 97, Issue 10 of The Mississippi Collegian