Madeline Finn has a way of stirring one’s soul with her music, exemplified by her new song, “When It’s Dark.” The grunge-leaning track balances Finn’s stark resiliency with her refined voice, reminiscent of Evanescence’s Amy Lee. In the song, Finn examines fear in all its facets: the horror-movie creepiness of feeling watched; concrete phobia fodder like spiders and ghosts; anxiety and uncertainty in relationships and in the future, and more. But the song’s power comes from her vow not to let fear take over, but to understand it.
She uses potent metaphors in the second verse: “Fear is a delicate dance/She’ll spin you around and tie both of your hands/And she’ll force you to grow in ways you’ve never before/Like the ivy slithers through the cracks.” Soft, but ominous strings add to the song’s sinister vibe, Finn naturally intertwining eeriness into her genre-defying sound.
The song’s bridge mimics that sense of rising unease to stunning effect. The electric guitar starts off low, slowly building as she ticks off a whimsical list of activities that will somehow inoculate her to more serious terrors. Drums thunder and the intensity of the riffs grow louder behind her soaring voice as she reveals that she confronts her irrational fears “So that I may grow accustomed to the way that it feels/And I’ll treat it like an old friend when it tries to steal/My breath from my body/When it tries to rock me/Like a ship lost at sea.” Quietness guides us to calmer waters at song’s end, where Finn reprises the breathless statement “But I’m not crazy” in a manner that symbolizes self-soothing.
In a description of the song on Soundcloud, Finn reveals that the story poured out of her in 20 minutes after a bout with paranoia, when she thought someone was watching her from inside her home, resulting in a panic attack that she couldn’t alleviate. In a moment she says felt straight out of a horror movie, Finn turned to songwriting as a last resort to calm her nerves. “’When It’s Dark’ is the most powerful creation I’ve been able to channel from the muse to music,” the Cleveland-raised, now Nashville-based singer professes. “It gave me a sort of container to put all the fear into, and that’s what I do every time I sing it… I take all the fear and anxiety I’ve been feeling and put it all into that moment. It doesn’t get rid of it completely or make it so I don’t have to do any other work, but it does transport me back and remind me that I have in fact come out on the other side.”
“When It’s Dark” is one example of Finn’s gripping artistry. As the lead singer of pop-punk band Envoi and Americana-style group Whiskey Hollow, Finn proves she can cover the musical spectrum and blend these distinct sounds into her solo work. The delicacy of her voice is felt on “Love Me Like I Love You,” an ode to unrequited love and loneliness, while the video for “Save Yourself” showcases her ability to masterfully bring her words to life through captivating black-and-white images as she tries to keep her head above water in a bathtub while a series of hands attempt to push her under.
Part of Finn’s magic is that she strikes just the right balance between tenderness and intensity, bringing a mystical air to her work that demands attention. “When It’s Dark” asks us to consider what we do in the face of fear, but the bravery in Finn’s voice is unmistakable.
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