“Outside of Time” by Athena. Maybe the colors of her songs can make us all brand new.
If you can, take Athena’s new album, Outside of Time, to a rooftop or a balcony or a cliff overlooking the ocean and listen to it with headphones. Let the breadth of her emotional power sweep up from your gut and carry you into the sky with her majestic vocal fireworks and then drift back down with falling note embers, each one a memory – some hers, some yours, some real, some anticipated.
Athena’s producer, the Grammy-nominated Ethan Allen, says the album “has an almost cosmic nature.” I think that is an understatement. It is fully cosmic, but the cosmos it travels are interior; they exist inside her and inside her listeners. The twelve songs on the album – her second US record and fifth studio album – are full of pain and pasts, of family and future, of betrayal and hope. Outside of Time is the most intimate, raw, emotionally naked voice I have heard from her since I began following her four years ago as she was finishing up her US breakthrough album, Ready for the Sun.
Written mostly while she was pregnant, Outside of Time, brings us into her time, starting with the Out of the Dirt” and “How to Love” which carry us gently into the sepia of her childhood, of the memories and things “I cling to when I can’t get up off the ground ….when the world locks me out of the room.” Close your eyes and follow her on the blacktop as she sings, “riding in the moonlight with the top down” and try to not to cry.
But the memories merge into the “Here and Now,” a song filled with orchestral lushness while her intoxicating voice asks as a simple question, “what if this moment is the only thing we have?” Capturing you with simple piano notes that rise with Allen’s symphonic arrangement, that is the wind beneath her voice’s wings, supporting but never overpowering them.
The album’s emotional range stretches from beautiful extremes in “We Gave it All,” a song about a failed romance despite herculean efforts, and “Voice of the Desert’ in which she celebrates birthdays – hers and perhaps her coming child’s – quietly, clearly, with the simple, powerful line “We’ll always be together, forever in this song.” Again …try not to cry as you listen.
As taut as her emotional heart is with “Voice of the Desert,” she stretches it more in “Right Wrongs,” “I’m Waiting,” “Broken Friend,” “Thin Veil,” and “To Find You,” each a peel back of a layer of heartskin, each a hypnotic potion injected into a different ventricle. I don’t know why it hurts she sings in “I’m Waiting,” and I know you in “Thin Veil,” the lyrics in both songs delivered with vulnerability in her matchless voice – one in pain and one in joy – in the cadence of poetry, hooks that pull at the depths as well as the muscles.
“This is my Time” displays Athena’s maturity and confidence – the confidence of experience and meditative self-knowledge that enables her to be vulnerable, humble, and triumphant simultaneously. She tells us that this is my time, this is my place, but never forgets she has come out of the darkest night.
Athena could have ended the album there. But the Greek-born, London-raised, LA-based singer has other plans. After sold-out tours in Europe and the US, seven albums, and a BBC-documentary about her, she knows that not only has her time come but that her future is bright. She is about to bring a new album to us, a new life into the world, and a new phase in her existence. I love how your colors make me brand new she sings, both reminiscing on her life and exulting at the fresh future that awaits her, a perfect sentiment for all of us.
When you take off your earphones as Outside of Time ends and you meditate on the sky and the journey Athena has guided you on, perhaps she has also allowed you contemplate the darkest nights you have been through and how the colors of her songs can help make all of us brand new.