By Noelle Simeon Photos by Sarah Cass
SYML, Finnish for the word simple, has been releasing music since 2016. With a folk-rock base, in the alternative genre, SYML has created a new record that doesn’t feel overly crowded or muddled by too many musicians in the studio. “The Day My Father Died” has 15 tracks, and packs as much of a punch as SYML’s usual quiet, piano-laden, self-described sad songs, making it worth the listen.
This new album approaches loss and grief, but unlike his 2021 EP “Dim”. It is not grappling with the fear and raw grief of losing a parent, but finding beauty in accepting the loss and life afterwards. Brian Fennell, the artist behind SYML, explains “Losing my dad felt like running out of air. I still feel it in my gut. But this record is not about losing him, it’s about what happens after we have lost.”
Fennell’s Christian upbringing and influence has weaved throughout SYML’s previous work, perhaps most apparent with his “Sacred Spaces” album, where he toured churches throughout the world. “The Day My Father Died” delves into those beliefs deeper, and shows us what Fennell holds most sacred: love in its multitude of forms.
In “Howling”, SMYL cries out with a full choir in tow, “My blood and my body/ will sing out your praises”, worshiping his lover. “You & I’s” lyrics speak directly on finding religion in your lover with not needing heaven but finding peace in their love. The 90’s Christianity trend of teenaged youth groups is criticized in “Tragic Magic”.
“Lost Myself” features singer Guy Garvey, with both singing on the complexities of losing yourself after a loss. Fennell’s high falsetto through the chorus is lovingly balanced with Garvey’s deeper tones.
The title track, “The Day My Father Died”, speaks of Fennell’s father’s lessons, similar to a calling of commandments, and how they helped with life and being able to carry on. “Corduroy” carries a sweetness, almost putting memories of childhood and growing up on a romanticized pedestal. Reminiscent of the 70’s folk legends, with its acoustic guitar picking, “Sweet Home” lyrically speaks of his childhood home like his own sanctuary, “said in silence like a prayer/ if these walls could breathe the air/ they would sing the song of love”.
Devout fans looking for SYML’s usual sound can be found in songs “Feel Your Pain” and “Caving In,” which, of course, are two of my favorites. Having lost my own father in October of 2021, trying to comfort those around you (“Feel Your Pain”), and having someone shut you out (“Caving In”), all while navigating your own grief journey, are viscerally felt.