To Enjoy is the Only Thing is a warm, welcoming record, despite its origin in loneliness overseas. Returning to Melbourne in late 2019 from Brighton (England) with a wealth of demos in her SoundCloud account, Tori Zietsch aka Maple Glider enlisted Tom Iansek (Big Scary/#1 Dads/The Paper Kites/Hockey Dad) to record, mix and produce the first set of songs she was ready to commit to tape (Iansek is also credited as co-writer and co-arranger).
Glider talks in poetic terms of what the album looks or sounds like to her: “walking past tinsel covered trees in mid-September, swimming along the calanques in the south of France, car-bonnet frost, darkness at 4pm, lightness until 10pm, a muted feeling, the perpetual grey fog that swallows the Silver Coast, the colour red, this ugly green dress, red wine, red blood, red lips, red is the colour of the cardinal’s robe, Switzerland, my mother’s diaries, a coroner’s report, the sun on my face, the end of love”.
The “muted feeling” Glider refers to is predominant on the album, but not in the sense that there’s a lack of effort; To Enjoy is the Only Thing is muted in the sense of melancholic, and it’s a fine and impressive debut.
Two key tracks on the album are “As Tradition” and “Good Thing” due to their immediately appealing melodies. Glider was brought up in a restrictive religious household, and “As Tradition” works through the conflict between the spiritual and the corporeal, encapsulated by the exclamation in the song that “you and God baby love me the best”. The song begins with Glider’s voice against solo piano, determined but with an enigmatic delivery reflecting a deeply personal statement – “love is just a word I have learned I may use at my own expense/Bible study earned me the right to be alone, in my own defence”. When the rest of the band gently join, the nature of the song changes to let in the cynicism of worldly affairs – a true declaration of love is seemed as absurd.
“Good Thing” is a laid back country stroll reminiscent of Neil Young, with lyrics suggesting re-birth through change, learning by “setting fire to things that bring us life…. because I’d rather kill a good thing/than wait for it to die”. This cathartic philosophy is central to the album; to enjoy is the only thing – the best we can do is try and enjoy life in the face of adversity.
Love and relationships are familiar ground for pop music, but the songs on To Enjoy is the Only Thing approach the topic with originality and an intimacy of both music and lyrics. “Swimming” is set watching surfers on the Birling Gap (on the south coast of England), as the undertow of the music drives the story with sensuous and dramatic imagery:
You pressed your hands against the darkest spaces of my skin
Tell me my body has been so beautifully lived in
I almost fell apart, when you looked straight at my heart
And said baby, swim
The songs often have a wandering narrative; the characters in “Friend” are “tangled in the stars”, with the singer having “served coffee in five different cities now”. There are flashbacks to “early days in the band”, making tour plans, the comic pulling out of a costume “during practice in your shed”. On the guitar strum of “Be Mean, It’s Kinder Than Crying” there’s fretting over a “terrible thing” – the loosening of strings “that kept us together”.
This is a gentle album, but with its’ fair share of angst. There’s a man “unfurling” in the bedroom of the fragile “Performer”, a track similar in atmosphere to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. The long-distance loneliness of “Mama It’s Christmas” (with haunting backing vocals and piano by Daniel Pinkerton) is unlikely to ever make the Christmas hit parade due to its downbeat nature; however it’s a memorable track due to its stark imagery – “is it drugs or religion keeping you here?/it’s already getting to that time of the year”.
The music on the album always serves the mood of the story Glider is telling; drums and percussion are sparse, with Jim Rindfleish’s subtle playing on five tracks. Producer Iansek also performs on the album (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, bass, synth) and adds a second vocal to the delicate “View from this Side”, a song of regret and heart-break with poetic lyrics (“You promised to love her even when she couldn’t feel it/I know, you see the beauty in dust so/I try to lift all of it up and press it against my eyelids”). Iansek’s voice also wraps around Glider’s on the dreamy comfort of “Baby Tiger” to provide further depth.
To Enjoy is the Only Thing is an album worth spending time on, warming up to, for repeated listening. It’s not flashy or showy, and has a distinct vision of the world. In its diversion from the well beaten path, this album is a true delight.
The album is available on 12″ vinyl (first pressing, pearly green vinyl), CD and digital download, Dinked edition (number 116) green splatter vinyl was limited to 500 with a hand numbered sleeve and double-sided photo print (now sold out).
“Mama It’s Christmas” is available on 7” vinyl (the B side is a live version from NPR Tiny Desk Home Concert) separately or as a package with the album.
Release Date: 25 JUN 2021