Singer-songwriter burwell is new to me and yet, in some ways, it feels as if her songs have been with me for most my life. I’d love to say that her lyrics and melodies have drifted through the abyss of spacetime, coloring sad moments in my past as they happened, but in truth the poetic reflection on life, death and grieving that is “anywhere but here,” the first single from her forthcoming debut EP boxes (due in March), adds comforting hues to memories long formed. It’s a gentle reminder of the power of song.
For background’s sake: burwell has been making music for a few years now, first as half of a folk duo known as the Tide Rose and then as part of a pop trio called the Cheap Royals. Her sound might best be called electronica pop meshed with whimsy and heart.
Released today, “anywhere but here” sets the stage for the EP, a touching song cycle that was inspired by the passing of her mother from pancreatic cancer. (I plan to write about boxes in-depth upon its release.) It opens with a remembrance of days that used to be and a lesson she learned from her mom back then: “don’t have to face the world/if you don’t look it in the eyes.” (Her mom used to take her on short road trips when things got hard at home.) The song, which was cowritten with Adam Palmer, pushes forward to her mom’s diagnosis and how “we had to face it but you/couldn’t look me in the eyes.”
The heart of the song, for me at least, comes on the bridge: “You taught me how to run away/but the only place I’ll run is to your side/If death is something we must face/Love could be the way/that we come back to life.” The cliche may be pat, but it’s true—our loved ones walk with us long after they’re gone.
It’s a tough subject, to be sure, but burwell handles it with the deftness of an aged poet. “anywhere but here” is an artful meditation that, in these global days of death and grief, may help provide the catharsis many people need. The video, I hasten to add, is as touching as the song. Give it a view and then add “anywhere but here” to your song library.