Album Review: Short Fictions – ‘Oblivion Will Own Me and Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler)’

Posted: by The Editor

Short Fictions’ Oblivion Will Own Me and Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler) is a record of dualities and contrasts constantly clashing for a final result that’s invigorating as it is heartbreaking, meditative as it kinetic, and as hopeful as it is despairing. The contrasts come in the musical choices—with this probably being both the group’s loudest and quietest record yet—as well as in the different settings that find songwriter Sam Treber mainly on tour or stuck inside his home in Pittsburgh. These contrasts even show up within individual songs as the bluntly titled “I’m Going to Kill Myself With a Gun” juxtaposes its simple melody and two-chord pattern that practically beg you to sing along with its lyrics that most people might not want to be overheard singing.

The range of sonic ideas on Oblivion Will Own Me and Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler) is apparent even in just the three tracks that were released prior to the record, with the poppy “Wasting” and the heavy “Oblivion Will Own Me And Death Alone Will Love Me” on opposite ends of the spectrum connected by the punky “Reno Nevada, January 2020” in the middle. While reflecting a vast swath of sounds, the trio of tracks is not out of line with the group’s past output—the lovesick lyrics and laser beam guitar solo on “Wasting” fit nicely alongside “Heather” or “Really Like You,” while the mix of uptempo punk and impending doom on “Reno Nevada, January 2020” is not far from “Living In Places Like These Can Be Bad For Your Health (Can’t Live Here Anymore),” and the ferocity of “Oblivion Will Own Me and Death Alone Will Love Me” echoes the even more brutal “The Great Unwashed.” 

Likewise, “Self Betterment in a Time of Loneliness” is a comfortable opener for Short Fictions, with intricate and energetic drumming joining the steadily strummed guitars under lines like “they’ll be no more nights spent staring at the TV tired, those sitcoms are trite / and I spent a long time wishing that I’d died last year, but still I survive” and an instrumental run that completely flips the song on its head before a long fade out. It makes for a strong one-two punch with “Reno Nevada, January 2020” to open the record, with the latter finding Treber “drinking staring at a slot machine” to replace the ceiling tiles and TV he stared at in “Self Betterment in a Time of Loneliness,” before earnestly imploring the specifically intended listener “every letter that I wrote to you in a song, I really meant it, no I wouldn’t drag you along” under the punchy keys and glockenspiel. 

While it’s true these tracks go down smooth for Short Fictions listeners, there is a more of an overt raw punk edge to the sound of the guitars on Oblivion Will Own Me and Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler), particularly when compared to trebly emo twang on Fates Worse Than Death (like “Reno Nevada, January 2020” bridging the distance between the other two singles, Every Moment of Every Day works as a nice synthesis of the guitars of Fates and Oblivion). There’s an extra layer of sludge to the guitars on “To Loved Ones Lost in Pursuit of Foolish Passions” in particular, as Treber shouts out what could be seen as the mantra of the record: “we’ve all lost loved ones but you can’t just sit at home and do nothing.”

The tune sounds particularly huge following the stripped down “I’m Going to Kill Myself with a Gun”—as does the hard-rocking “Anymore” after the album’s somber centerpiece “Max.” Feeling like Treber taking a look back at the songs he wrote in the past, “Anymore” finds him reflecting “I miss the way that I felt back when I was 17, back then you could break my heart and I wouldn’t feel a thing, don’t miss the way that I lived back when I was 24, and I’ll never feel unimportant anymore” before his ultimate declaration of “won’t ever act like that again, because now I know just who I am / now I know exactly who I want to be / now I know exactly what I want / now I know exactly what I want and I know that’s you” over some of the heavier instrumentals on the record. 

The clearest conjunction of opposites on Oblivion Will Own Me and Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler) comes from contrast of the heavier, peppier tracks like “To Loved Ones Lost in Pursuit of Foolish Passions” and “Anymore” with tracks like the one they bookend, “Max.” A quiet acoustic tribute to a lost friend with sparse piano accompaniment and the feeling of being recorded late at night separately from the rest of the album, it’s the kind of song bands usually plop unceremoniously at the end of the record. While there’s logic to not wanting to break the energy and flow of a more electric-based record, the decision to deliberately and dramatically stop that momentum by placing “Max” in between two rockers—and to leave an equally sparse cover of a tune popularized by Hank Williams to actually close the album—creates such a profound and solemnizing effect. Yes, it “stops you in your tracks,” but even more it immediately draws you in, forcing you to easily accept that abrupt shift without question as Treber begins that track with “stop moving time, I’m sick of everybody dying young, I know that I can’t spend another night alone in my cold bedroom crying for friends no longer with me.” It’s not that there is no need to use metaphors or cheeky lyrics here—instead, it feels more like Treber is just worn down and all he can muster is a simple, direct plea to the universe. Treber has certainly never been afraid to show emotion and vulnerability as a songwriter—Short Fictions is an emo band, after all—but he has never sounded as raw and laid bare as on “Max,” and its inclusion might help to make Oblivion Will Own Me and Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler) Short Fictions’ strongest, most compelling outing yet.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Oblivion Will Own Me and Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler) is out everywhere today with vinyl and cassettes available through Lauren Records.

Aaron Eisenreich | @slobboyreject

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