On Eliza Edens’ sophomore album We’ll Become the Flowers, she seeks to understand what happens after the end. Whether grappling with heartache or a loved one's mortality, the Brooklyn-based songwriter reimagines endings not as finite events but as devotional experiences that give way to new beginnings. Edens takes inspiration from folk luminaries such as Nick Drake, Karen Dalton and Elizabeth Cotten, sowing her compositions with introspection born from her own grief. What emerges is a glowing collection of songs that serve as a map through tumult, toward hope.
Edens sings and writes with an equally tender reverie as in her 2020 debut album Time Away From Time. But where We’ll Become the Flowers diverges, is in its narrative vulnerability. Each song is bursting: with sorrow, with anger, with the miracle of existence. “I wrote this album out of emotional necessity,” Edens says. "I had just gone through a breakup. And around the same time, my mother was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease. I was spending a lot of my time trying to understand what it means to watch the hopeful person who raised me seem to slowly fade away before my eyes.” As the pandemic loomed, Edens turned to music: "This project was a rope I used to pull myself out of misery, to view the despair I was feeling from a different angle. It was also my escape.”
After a successful crowdfunding campaign, Edens recorded We’ll Become the Flowers during a two-week session in July 2021 in a Minneapolis attic. She worked with her trusted friends and collaborators – co-producer and bassist Pat Keen, audio engineer and guitarist Dexter Wolfe, and drummer Shane Leonard. Going into each session, they envisioned an atmosphere of experimentation which led them to reconceptualize many of Edens’ songs. “I Needed You,” for example, changed from “a glum breakup waltz” into “a song that’s feeling good about feeling bad,” Edens says, recalling Leonard’s words after he suggested changing the time signature.
In We’ll Become the Flowers, Edens’ voice rings out sweet yet sorrowful; playful yet certain; hers is a voice capable of embodying emotion in all its complexity. When Edens asks, in the record’s opener, “How do I get there?” she stretches out the last word as if to emphasize its infinite possibilities. Yet Edens never remains in the abstract; instead, she takes us along on her emotional journey, speaking honestly, intimately, and specifically about her process: “I tried to start by weeding through the trauma in my bones,” she sings in the next verse of “How.” “To rearrange the memories / Forgive and not keep score.” In “Tom and Jerry,” Edens’ songwriting becomes more whimsical. “Oh it’s getting so hard to choose / And I’m chewing on all the alternate routes,” Edens sings, using a playful rhyme with alliterative echo.
In “I Needed You,” Edens uses the repetition of her hook to convey how her feelings toward her former lover have shifted over time. The first time she sings, “I needed you,” her voice is steeped in nostalgia, romanticizing the lover’s “flannel shirt and calming words.” But the final time Edens sings, “I needed you,” her tone has shifted: she’s harsher, irreverent even – and as if in response to remembering how much she thought she needed them, she breaks into laughter. But Edens’ conviction as a songwriter comes across most clearly in “For the Song.” “And when the rage comes around,” she sings, “And every critic’s tearing up her ground / The truth becomes power.” In this last phrase, her voice is as direct and unwavering as her words.
Creating We’ll Become the Flowers started as a way for Edens to plant her grief. What took root, however, is a series of offerings. These come in the form of scenes that are both familiar yet deeply personal to Edens: singing loudly on the highway, wandering a graveyard, dancing in the wilderness, watching her mother plant flowers, wishing to create her own shine, reminding herself that the only seed worth planting is hope. Through Edens’ words, we glimpse the possibility of change, of forgiveness, of acceptance and, in numinous spurts, joy. If we see Edens’ album as a conversation—between Edens and herself and between Edens and the listener—then the conversation opens with a question that she poses in the first song, “But how do I get there?” In the album’s denouement, “Julia,” Edens returns to this question, changed, and with a final offering: “The pen is in your hand,” she reminds us. “And the key is in your certainty.”