Ester’s Turn Around is a dark journey toward self-actualization
I’ve been wanting to get to know Chicago’s indie scene better for awhile now. I flirted with it years ago as a student at Wheaton College; in spite of our reputation as the Evangelical Harvard, we had our share of decent indie bands on campus with a variety of theological viewpoints represented. (I’m sad I even have to defend that it’s possible for a school like Wheaton to have good indie rock, but here we are.) Alas, I would move back to Columbus, and save for becoming a fan of Hidden Hospitals and reviews of Steve Slagg/Youngest Son, a remnant from my Wheaton days—I was removed from the scene.
Ester convinced me to take another look. Knowing a bit of frontperson Anna Holmquist’s story, their experience escaping a cult and moving into a period of self-discovery and actualization grieves me a bit as a Christian. I read about these sorts of experiences and think “my God isn’t like that,” but hearing this music gives me hope, and I’m glad they were able to find some healing. This is evident from the get go on “The Space,” which is chock full of lyrics about pressing forward and finding joy—expressed in Ester’s own trademark, melancholy way—acknowledging the beauty that can be found even in the midst of past and present pain.
One of my favorite aesthetics is that of the golden hour. Why? Because it’s a transition. The beauty is the same whether it’s darkness that is coming or the fullness of the day ahead. Ester was a suitable soundtrack as I took my evening walk today during said golden hour. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying they’re all things for all moods—certainly not. But my default state is definitely a pensive one—and I get the sense Holmquist is that type of person as well. It’s there in all of the songs, whether during particularly poignant melodies (“Shadow”) or driving, steady thoughts and beats (“John’s Car” and “Thirsty”). Still others are declarations about identity (“Not the Kind,” for example) and have a feeling that verges on anthemic, but the overarching theme demands reflection rather than rocking out.
The record was still on my mind today as I took another evening walk—no golden hour today. The sky was overcast. I felt a bit melancholy and sad about nothing in particular. Of all things, a twenty one pilots single had me in my feels, and I needed some time to myself outside. I don’t know how this season is going to end, but I know I’ll be a changed person. Anna Holmquist has written their story as a lesson for folks like me. Even if I’m just getting lost in the melodies, I know behind every musician is a story that I can allow to shape me. Thanks, Ester.