Connecticut’s LIT. MAJOR writes sadcore bedroom folk for introverts. The minimalist folk instrumentation, vibrato-heavy vocals and self-deprecating, self-doubting lyrics land the work somewhere in the same musical sphere as Sufjan Stevens’ acoustic introspections, Jesca Hoop’s plaintive and melancholic folk, and the grandeur and affectations of Rufus Wainwright.
Fiction opens with “Love is Fiction” and rarely does the album get better than this track, which is gentle, serene, and broken. It’s a pensive take on the notion of exquisite and doomed amour fou; LIT. MAJOR’s vibrato swoops over a tale of a lover in denial about the power of pure emotional pull, a theme explored on several occasions on Fiction. There is a lullaby-style tone to the guitar that belies the devastating effect of lyrics like “If you are trying you can make it through / If you make-believe enough it may become true” – we’ve all been there, which is why it stings so much. It’s a genuinely stunning opening – simple, erudite and bruised.
For some, love lifts us up to where we belong and is a many splendored thing, but for LIT. MAJOR it is a barren ground tinged with the potential for deceit and the lack of certainty in another’s feelings and intentions. The make-believe erodes the genuine sense of self in all of us, a point drilled home by LIT. MAJOR across a number of the tracks here.
There is a warmth amongst the imagery and aural tones on “Remain in Ice”. Thor Harris plays vibraphone on this track as well as a couple of others on the album, and his presence adds a safety net of sound around LIT. MAJOR’s vulnerable voice and guitar. Harris has played with a number of artists ranging from Swans and Ben Frost, to Xiu Xiu and Shearwater, and his work here is subdued and subtle, yet still pivotal. The vibraphone serves as a ghost sound rather than an overtly physical presence, an ethereal faintness to its place in the mix heightens the sense of longing and lost that the song provokes. The lyrics opine the futility of emotional closeness as “We know that the thaw’s coming sometime / In one of our tomorrows,” whilst also revelling in the transience of sensation.
“Used to Be” features an all-too-relatable lyric about the need for assurance from others, and how we form opinions of ourselves in light of the responses from those we seek approval from. “In This Light” centres on that fleeting moment where everything is just right, and the risk to move beyond that feels too much of a burden to contemplate. The deliberate cognitive recording of significant life events is a recurring theme on Fiction, as is the seemingly inevitable disappointment that follows. This record isn’t for those seeking hedonistic absolution, but there is a beauty in its despair for those who recognise the purpose of sadness.
The strength of Fiction lies in the openness with which the song’s narratives are delivered. Whereas Generosity, LIT. MAJOR’s album from 2019, dealt in the personal experiences of the artist, Fiction features narratives that are entirely, erm… make-believe. Yet, in constructed stories often lies a fair degree of truth we find hardest to reveal. The sense of vacillation that permeates the record may be a little too much for some, but there is a lot here for those who have come to accept their own limitations, and how expectations and hopes in others only leads to disappointment.
“Skin on Fire” sounds like Jens Lekman which is no bad thing at all, while “Wear Your Worries” has echoes of Kings of Convenience without being derivative or overly referential. There are a couple of missteps on the album, with “Ghosts” in particular feeling like a filler more than anything else.
The album closes on “Erosion”, a meandering song that follows the usual LIT. MAJOR trajectory before becoming skewed off course by a Robert Wyatt-style melody line that serves as a non-sequitur. It’s a tangential respite before order is restored as usual before the song eventually repeats, disintegrates and decays, like the artist shedding his skin at the end of the project.
Fiction is a sizeable step forward for LIT. MAJOR, and the record’s central theme of a hagiography of a fragile heart highlights the bravery that underpins the song writing talent at the record’s core.