Much like the famed Dickinson poem from which Sorority Noise’s latest EP takes its name, It Kindly Stopped For Me is centered on the idea of death. Though the similarities seem to stop there. Because while Dickinson’s Death is a kindly gentleman, traveling alongside her as she makes her journey through life, the band pointedly turns it into an object — death is an “it.”
By stripping death of an identity, Sorority Noise attempts to lessen the power it holds over us. There is no experience more common or more alienating than loss, yet the band manages to break down the walls their own experience created until we’re all collectively shouldering their pain.
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The carriage held but just ourselves
It’s the vulnerability that Sorority Noise imparts that makes It Kindly Stopped For Me so powerful, though unassuming. It is neither loud nor fast; there are no real hooks. In its quiet acoustic solitude, the EP appeals to the side of you torn apart by loss. It is the piece of you that cannot let go because the harder you try, the more you find yourself clinging on. After all, who among us hasn’t wished to “go back/to when fragility and innocence was all I knew”?
With the guitars stripped back and percussion kept to a bare minimum, Boucher’s vocals are left to do the majority of the heavy lifting. His delivery is poignant throughout the EP’s four tracks, from the heartbreaking sincerity of lines like “I’d leave you my whole heart/If there was one left to leave” (“A Will”) to the informal stream-of-consciousness of “Fource.” The band bolsters Boucher’s emotional outcry by layering his vocals on tracks like “Either Way” and “XC,” both of which undercut their solemn tones with twinkling piano melodies.
“A Will” slows things down to an achingly deliberate pace, each note so fragile that it feels as though it could break at the slightest upset. Boucher seems no better off as he reads through the list of things he’ll leave loved ones when he is gone: his teeth, his heart, his breath, his name. His last will and testament lays heavy upon listeners despite its delicate and airy tone as Boucher’s fear of being forgotten becomes the driving force behind the track.
The lines I found myself returning to most often were the closing lyrics of “Fource”: “Today was an off day/I’ve had a few.” Not because they’re particularly poetic in their content or delivery, but precisely because they’re not. As anyone who has lost a loved one can tell you, there isn’t always poetry in pain. Your thoughts are not always pretty, nor do they necessarily make sense. And oftentimes there is little more that can be said than what Boucher so bluntly states in the EP’s penultimate track.
Death is an ever-present force in our lives, and encompasses so much more than Dickinson’s poem would lead us to believe. It Kindly Stopped For Me deals with the harsher truths that come along with that realization: we love, we lose, and we are eventually lost. Nothing can ever quite prepare you for it, but Sorority Noise provides one hell a depiction for how disorienting it can be.