by Arielle Friedman
With its opening song, “Boy Was I Wrong,” Far Out Dust gestures towards the past. Talos debuted in 2014 when the band released “Tethered Bones,” a single written by frontrunner Eoin French following his girlfriend’s diagnosis with Tuberculosis and his decision to remain in Cork, Ireland, by her side. The band elaborated on this theme with their debut album, Wild Alee, released in 2017.
The Talos of Far Out Dust seems to do battle, dance, and converse with the Talos of Wild Alee. French sings in two voices, one a trembling and mournful falsetto, embodying the style of the band’s debut, and one a deeper and more wrenching tenor, rough with recrimination and regret. No song showcases this duality better than, “The Light is Upon Us,” which pounds with an epic orchestral sound as the accompanying video pans on French dwarfed by sweeping desert landscapes and empty skies. This is no longer the young man from Cork lamenting the smallness of his world; over the past two years, French has worked in New York, LA, Dublin, London and Reykjavik. If Wild Alee yearned for freedom, Far Out Dust—with French singing “We are echoes way out here”—comments on the price of that freedom.
And yet, the sound and video for “The Light is Upon Us,” juxtaposes these vast landscapes with an almost claustrophobic intimacy, as rocks, footprints, and geometric shapes made alien by an eerie red light pulse across the screen while French sings in a soft falsetto that hearkens back to the emotions of Wild Alee. French has said of the song, “the idea of the light… it’s not a positive light. It’s one that erases things. It’s blinding. Sometimes things have to be destroyed for something else to be created. An acceptance that things are supposed to die at some point. Everything has an end.” And yet, whatever it is that’s struggling to die or be killed by the light of this song survives and diffuses through the rest of the album, through the swelling recriminations of “To Each His Own,” the pulsing, orchestral storytelling of “The Flood,” and the disconnected sensuality of “2AM.” By the time French reaches “Far Out Dust,” the album’s titular and final song, the lament has taken over, echoing through the soundscapes that for all their scope twist around the tragedy of the past.
No review of Far Out Dust would be complete without a discussion of the sure-to-be controversial “See Me.” “See Me” succeeds at conveying that coveted universality, where the lyrics seem capable of wrapping around whatever haunts you. And yet the song has a chillingly specific origin: It was inspired in part by Ed Kemper, an American serial killer. French describes “See Me” as “a sort of prequel to [Kemper’s] life. We are confronted with innocence and humanity, and a character that finds himself in a world where he is an outsider seeking his place in it.” The video features a boy resembling a young Kemper, at turns frolicking with and cowering from his mercurial mother. In lyrics rich with metaphor, the singer begs his lone light, “Won’t you teach me how to see/The way you see me” with increasing hopelessness, as his deepest self becomes aligned with darkness and silence. The pounding, echoing synthesizers buoy French’s soaring voice, carving out the frozen landscape so clearly that you can almost see the snowlit pine trees and smell the smoke of dangerous fires. The real Kemper would grow up to murder at least ten people, including, finally, his mother.
We know that the love at the center of this song will fail, and it will fail terribly. Talos explores the question: Was that love always doomed, or could things have been different, if everyone involved had risen to the challenge in another way?
Far Out Dust succeeds at both developing the themes of Talos’ debut, and at introducing new elements, weaving both together into a beautiful and powerful sophomore album. Far Out Dust drops on February 8th, and you can pre-order copies on Talos’ website.