Album Review: Colony House’s “Only The Lonely”
In the spring of 2015, a friend and I wandered out of our night class, through the rain, into the auditorium where a young band called Colony House was about to play.
At the time, I didn’t know much about Colony House. I hadn’t listened to a whole lot of their music. I knew the band included Steven Curtis Chapman’s sons. I liked their song “Silhouettes,” which I heard frequently at campus events. Andrew played their songs in his car, and some girls I knew posted on social media about their music. But that was about it. Their songs were not personal to me.
That is, not yet.
At some point in 2016, I really connected with their song “Waiting for My Time to Come.” Then it played one day in my car, and I told Andrew it felt like a representation of my life. I had just graduated from college and was wading through the unknowns of post-grad life. My time was not then. So I took Colony House’s advice to “be patient now; let the fire burn.”
One morning in the fall, I listened to all of When I Was Younger, and from it I gained a greater appreciation, not just for the individual songs or even the album; rather, I gained a greater appreciation for what I call complete albums.
If you’ve listened to When I Was Younger, you probably have a good idea of what I mean. All the songs connect around a central idea. In this case, the idea was growing up to pursue greatness; becoming confident in who you are to follow your dreams.
Fast forward to now, and Colony House has produced another complete album, this time centered around the concept of loneliness, fittingly titled Only The Lonely.
The album opens on a bright note. “Cannot Do This Alone” feels like an optimistic conclusion to a season of loneliness. “1234” is almost like a continuation of that optimism. Both are about needing people- from brothers to significant others.
While there’s not a sad song on this album, I would argue there is an angry one. “Lonely” is about isolation and being misunderstood- and feeling like you’re the only one who’s ever felt alone. Still, there’s a lesson for us to learn here. Fear of loneliness may drive us to hold on tightly to those around us. Maybe this fear drives us to never leave home. But, as Colony House’s lyrics show, you never really have what you can’t let go. Or, as Caleb sings, “The only way of failing is never letting you go.”
“You & I” finds us on the other end of the spectrum. While “Lonely” is about undesired loneliness, “You & I” is about self-imposed loneliness, because you’re just so tired of tension. You could fight, but you’re just “over this conversation.” No doubt, news headlines make us feel like the world’s problems are beyond our control, so why even talk? But, as Colony House reminds us, “Maybe the world isn’t crazy; maybe it’s you and I.” In other words, the world’s problems aren’t beyond us; they begin with us learning to live together and talk- to choose to ease the tension, not by withdrawing, but through mutual understanding.
Which brings us to probably my favorite lyrics on the album. “Where Your Father’s Been” is so rich with wisdom. It’s about chasing your dreams and not being weighed down by negativity, “for the rain will never stop if you’re chasing every drop.” No doubt, this song refers to the Chapman brothers’ dad, who knows the road of music all too well. Hence, the brothers are not alone in their struggles. Rather, they can go on the road in confidence because, similar to the lyrics in “Lonely,” “if you love something enough, you learn to let it go.”
So we find them hitting the road with rock and roll in the next song, “You Know It.” They’ve been on the road before, and they know they’ll be back- home, San Francisco, and everywhere else. It’s as if they no longer fear letting go, because they know when they return, they’ll have what they left behind, along with the memories they collected on the road.
The second half of the album keeps the rock and roll coming. The first time I listened to “3:20,” the follow-up to “2:20” from Younger, I felt like my face was going to melt off. It’s just that intense. A few of the other tracks, namely “Remembered For,” are reminiscent of The Killers’ sound (thanks to Andrew for noticing this trend)- and I’m all for these tracks’ twist on The Killers’ sound.
Finally, the album concludes on a soft but high note with “This Beautiful Life.” It’s an optimistic twist on common existential questions: What am I doing here? What is the meaning of it all? Why do anything at all? The lyrics recognize the beauty in life, but leaves Caleb longing for more. Where does all this beauty come from? And so, with every note, “I follow to find out where the voice is coming from.” Indeed, he comes to recognize that he is a part of the beauty, even if he is just “a page in a book in a library.” The album ends with Caleb, and hopefully us as listeners, convinced there’s more than just this life.
As the guys hurdled growing up on Younger, so they overcome one of the greatest challenges of being grown here on Lonely: an acute awareness of isolation. And I really connect with both. I’ve grown as they have grown. I had to grow up. I had to move on from what I knew. And now, in spite of loneliness, the fire still burns.
From Lonely and from personal experience, I’ve learned that, while loneliness is hard, it is temporary. Even in our loneliness, we are not alone. Others feel the same way. And from these others, at least the members of Colony House, we know the feelings will not last, and that the storm will pass- as long as we will let it.