Superior Siren EP is a quiet, haunting look at love
By Mark Nicklawske
Superior Siren - the eerie folk project created by Duluth-based artist Laura Sellner - found success in 2018 recording a self-titled debut album in a collaborative setting that evolved into a tour-de-force band. While the group project produced remarkable results, at its core was Sellner’s introspective poetry and clarion-call voice.
Last month, Sellner released a Superior Siren solo EP titled “Kill Your Darlings,” a project that emphasizes this intensely personal songwriting and gives the artist a platform for vocal experimentation.
The five-song record is a quiet, almost haunting affair. Liner notes don’t mention a studio but It sounds as if it was put together in a dark, empty bedroom with only a sliver of moonlight passing through a window. It’s just Sellner, an acoustic guitar and a handful of heartbreaking and mysterious love songs.
“This collection of songs is an ode to past relationships, and how those experiences influenced the relationship I have with myself,” writes Sellner on the Superior Siren Bandcamp page. “By knowing and loving others I have expanded my ability to know and love myself.”
“Kill Your Darlings” confronts those difficult relationships through sharp, concise songwriting. It’s a short, compelling body of work that examines the painful parts of love and the healing found in its adventures...or misadventures
On the opening track, “Release,” for example, Sellner uses sounds as much as words to describe the end of a relationship. Vocals are intense and double tracked on verses while the chorus soars into soprano territory. It's powerful stuff and wouldn’t work for someone with a lesser voice, but Sellner has the chops to pull it off.
“Love Poem” turns things inside out as Sellner works Lake Superior into a tale of love gone wrong:
“Wishing there was something to see,
deeper than the ocean and the inland sea.
Sitting here wishing there was something to feel
Other than a hole in your heart.
“Kill Your Darlings” finds Sellner with wandering-eyed lovers, ghosts in the sheets and vagabonds who may or may not be real. It’s all compelling poetry, delivered with vocal depth and direction that rewards the listener over multiple spins.
Like Andrianne Lenker of Big Thief or British folk star Laura Marling, Sellner has a powerfully expressive voice and uses it as an instrument rather than just a vehicle for her lyrics. It’s fascinating to hear her range expand on this solo recording.
And it’s not all despair and distress. The set ends with a wonderful song of confidence and triumph. Unlike the darker songs that precede it, Sellner’s singing is more direct and sure, as she lets the words speak for themselves on the empowering anthem “Darkness and Light”:
I am vision to behold
I am treasure to unfold
I am story still untold
And I am here with you to grow old
“Kill Your Darlings” is an excellent addition to the Superior Siren catalog. While some fans may have been hoping for a full-length record, Sellner has proven to be a patient artist willing to challenge and polish her skills. This is commendable, as it points to even bigger projects afloat in that inland sea.