I’ll admit it. Sometimes when I’m forced to talk to new people at a party or at a gig, I can feel myself turning into some kind of autopilot robot, mindlessly carrying on as if the human experience can be easily boiled down to a series of decisions a person makes: how to make a living, what to do in your free time, maybe even which social media platform to develop an unhealthy relationship with. The artsy types may suggest that life is measured in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, or in cups of coffee but, generally, many choose to define life by the choices we make or the reasoning behind those choices. Personally, when I’m in the midst of one of my bad day (or week) marathons, my mind usually becomes preoccupied with questions like how many more hours I can lay in bed without having to get up, or if anyone will bother to tell me my “I’m okay” mask went on vacation without telling me. For those coping with depression and anxiety, the daily proceedings can largely depend on a seemingly small, conscious decision to either avoid or confront what lies ahead.
In her debut release entitled SINK or SWIM, vocalist and composer, Sara Finkle, shares a painfully honest take on how it feels to be continually engulfed in unrelenting waves of negative thought for dangerously long periods of time. When writing music for this somewhat autobiographical project, Finkle often found inspiration in the work of other modern-day songwriters like Becca Stevens, whose music blends aspects of folk and jazz, and Emma Frank, whose recent project shares a similar muse. Within the 5-track EP, Finkle sheds light on a dark and deeply personal journey that ultimately challenged her beliefs around inner strength and mental stability.
SINK or SWIM begins with “Left Behind”, the folksy guitar-driven single whose upbeat rhythm almost makes you think it’s actually a song about you leaving someone behind and not the other way around. Even with the passing of years, it’s not uncommon for feelings of shame and grief over a dissolved friendship to remain intact. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this project is Finkle’s keen storytelling abilities evidenced by the songs that follow. Lyrically, “Paper” stands out as the only song told from the third person point of view (which may have been done subconsciously as a kind of defense or coping mechanism) and describes the type of aging woman you can’t help feeling sorry for. Marked by a small textural shift at the album’s halfway point, “How It Should Be” alludes to the sinking feeling that often comes from living a reality far less than ideal. She claims that with just a little help, she can delve deeper without falling too far or falling apart but… is she right?
The first words of the next track “pass me around again/ I can’t feel it anymore” aren’t particularly promising to that effect. With every phrase, “Around Again” accurately reflects the overwhelming sense of utter resignation and numbness that plagues many of us at some point or another. Lingering shadows of hopelessness coupled with an exceedingly passive disposition has the potential to, at any moment, induce the dreaded unraveling. Facing intensifying temptations of a final ending– an indulgent release– Finkle finds herself “waiting for someone to pick up the pieces” and bring her body home.
Thankfully, Finkle has since come up for air. With the help of therapy, meditation, and medication, the process of releasing SINK or SWIM has become a tangible way to leave the old behind and make room for a new season of growth. Within the next few months, Finkle has plans to relocate to the Chicago area where she intends to keep making music, keep surrounding herself with the right people close, and keep choosing to swim.
Voice – Sara Finkle
Keys – Alex Kishiyama
Guitar – Skyler Hill (tracks 1-4), Mark Scott (tracks 1 and 5)
Bass – Dylan Reid
Drums – Micah Ritchie
Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered by Eric Delegard at Reeltime Audio in Denton, TX.
Artwork by MariaClara Golfo
In addition to the major digital music streaming services, physical copies of the SINK or SWIM EP will be available for purchase on December 9th at the album release show at Andy’s Bar in Denton, TX. *Please comment or send me a message if you believe this post should include any trigger warnings*