Miranda Elliott’s debut as Old Man of the Woods, Votives, is one of this year’s big surprises for me. It’s an album devoid of classification as Elliott’s songs comfortably flit from one style to another, feeling at home within a multitude of sonic spaces, but always carrying an air of vulnerability. Each pop nugget is like a different landscape painting, textural and intriguing, with deeper meaning hidden behind the lush, beguiling surfaces.
Bouncing pop hooks permeate all the cracks of “Sharks,” growing from an intersection of self-reflection and realization brought on by forced isolation. “It took that lack of scapegoats and distractions for me to realize that everything I was afraid of was in me,” Elliott explains. This sentiment is reflected in one of the song’s most memorable lines, “I was scared of waves, but you’re terrifying. I was scared of sharks when you were behind me.” Stretched over ephemeral pads and pulsing synth basslines, Elliott’s feathery voice teases out the harsh truths. “‘Sharks’ is about sitting with those demons and meeting their gaze.”
Working with video producer and photographer Bryan Bruchman, the video for “Sharks” became a mesmerizing visual reflection of the tender ruthlessness of the song. Elliott filmed herself singing “Sharks” on her last night in her Richmond apartment where the song was born. “I wrote the lyrics in that shower, I recorded everything in that room, the song belonged to those walls, I needed to capture it there. I had no plan,” Elliott says, drawing connections between the brutal-but-cathartic realizations echoed in the song and the stark visuals of the place that helped create this magnetic soundworld stripped bare.
Bruchman pieced everything together, adding whimsical, minimalist animations that enhance the pensive claustrophobia of the video. It’s a wild ride that cuts deep yet opens up a world of joyful possibility. Together, the video and song embrace the visceral feeling that comes along with how we get out of our own hidden, self-destructive forests. “It’s restless and chaotic and hypnotic and so honest that I’m tempted to look away,” Elliott admits, echoing the fervid genuineness of the track. “I guess that’s the point – that facing yourself isn’t easy, but it’s the only path forward.”
Old Man of the Woods debut album, Votives, is out TOMORROW.
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