Kye Plant states quite bluntly that they wrote ‘Sober and Alone’ “in a bout of depression and insomnia”. The pain is raw and it’s in plain sight. That could be uncomfortable for the listener but it isn’t. The intimacy draws you in rather than scaring you away. Plant whispers their inner secrets in your ear and it makes you feel special.
The subject matter isn’t pretty. Over the space of eight songs Plant touches on suicide, loneliness, heartbreak, and drug-related death. You feel guilty for finding something entertaining and beautiful in it all, but you can’t help yourself. Their lyrics are a pure joy to unravel, and passages such as the following (from “Dawson”) are true poetry:
They found her out in a field
feeding flowers with her blood:
they breathe her death,
that sweet smell of success,
a broken heart no longer beating.
And let’s not forget the pain associated with being queer and/or non cis-gendered in a society that still has a lot of growing up to do. Plant hits the topic head-on with no holds barred, particularly in the song “The Gender Binary is a Jail Cell”. The difficulty of not fitting in; feelings of confusion, self-loathing; the encounters with men who are themselves conflicted in their revulsion/attraction -- these matters are all dealt with unflinchingly. It’s not easy to hear, but at the same time Plant makes it impossible to not listen.
The listening is made all the more irresistible by Plant’s gorgeous, smooth baritone voice. Their music itself is disarmingly simple -- mostly plain old acoustic guitar -- so when Plant throws in the odd embellishment, e.g. the harmonizing vocals on “Dawson” or the subdued electric guitar on “The Gender Binary…”, it really sounds almost exotic.
‘Sober and Alone’ is a remarkably accomplished work, especially when one considers that Plant has only played guitar for about a year (they formerly played bass for other bands) and that this is their first solo effort. If our “gender binary” world is indeed a prison then it’s nice to at least know that there is music like this to set us free.