Breathe in the longing of Austin James’ “Anhelo Pt. I & II”

Anhelo coverWhy you need it: Understated perfect journey through grief.

Style: alternative fusion pop (ballad)

“Anhelo Pt. I & II” is a brilliant exploration of the emptiness of grief. This new single by Connecticut indie Austin James combines electronica, sparse guitar, and searingly lovely vocals into a song that heals not by offering answers, but by engaging the listener’s empathy in mutual understanding.

I first heard a version of this song performed live at the inaugural Brignole Songwriters Round, where James introduced it as his response to the death of his sister. Performed acoustic, it was an emotive showstopper. The studio production adds levels of meaning, so if you can do your first listen with headphones, do — let he shape of the music, and the way the guitar line defines emptiness, surround you.

Anhelo is Spanish for I long, and longing is the emotional core of the song, while breathing is its framework.

The struggle to breathe in the vacuum of grief frames the song in sophisticated ways, starting with an opening that has the feel of a New Age meditation track — but, subtly, the pacing of shallow breaths that are an effort to remember.

The meditative sounds dissolve into an interior emotional landscape defined by sparse guitars, where a lonely voice echoes “in the vacant part of my heart where the love used to be.” James’ lyrics slide between numbness and bone-deep pain, curling up into themselves before unwinding into an echoing electronic section of bittersweet memories delivered in one long brave rush, which dissolves back into the attempt to breathe.

“I can hardly breathe” echoes through transitions in mood, from denial to anger to bargaining to acceptance (listen for a transformation in that key phrase — this is why you want headphones), ending in one final definitive breathe. 

The lyrical power of the song is in its stream-of-consciousness directness — James is not afraid to say die, and where he uses poetic metaphors, it’s to underline the intensity of his feelings, not to cushion the reality of loss.

At just over 7 minutes to encapsulate an emotional journey of years, the song does not feel long — it feels as if every stage is given its own space, so that the final emotional balance is not easy, but is so profoundly satisfying that you may want to sit in silence for a while and simply breathe.

More Austin James

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