For his latest album We Imagined an Ending (November 5, Burnside), Matt the Electrician (Matt Sever) challenged himself to turn the seven deadly sins on their head. “I got to wondering, ’What would be the opposite of that?’ Despite Sever’s teenage years immersed in nihilistic hardcore and metal, bleak-for-bleakness’ sake has just never been his bag.
“Of course, I didn’t realize ‘the opposite of the seven deadly sins’ was also a fairly well-worn path,” Sever continues with a laugh. “There are all these different virtues that answer the sins, like the seven Bushido virtues and the seven Quaker virtues...”
Sever can rattle off many of his song pairings without even checking his notes: “Night Owls” (Faith); “Big Changes” (Justice); “Dance” (Honesty); “Switch Shadows” (Empathy); “When the Lights Went Out” (Hope); “Heartbeat” (Peace); “Home Again” (Prudence); “Temporary” (Equality); “What If You Needed Me” (Community); and “Mindless” (Knowledge).
Produced by Tucker Martine (Decemberists, Neko Case, Sufjan Stevens, First Aid Kit), Sever recorded We Imagined an Ending way back in October of 2019. “On all of his records, Tucker creates this wider space,”says Sever. “There’s just this natural wide space to this album that I really love.”
At least three songs— “Night Owls,” “Temporary,” and “If You Needed Me” — were written with his late mom at the forefront of his mind, and “When the Lights Went Out” (whose lyrics include the album’s title) came to him within minutes of hearing the news about the death of fellow songwriter Neal Casal by suicide. “When the lights went out / We had to light the way,” he sings.
“There’s actually a lot of death on this album,” he observes. “But it’s more about the cycle of things. The full line in “When the Lights Go Out” is, ‘We imagined an ending, and then tried to let it go.’ We all have what we think is going to be the way things are going to work out, but then they don’t always work out that way at all. Like you might think, ‘Oh, we’ll see Mom next Christmas,’ or whatever, and then you just don’t. So then you have to just figure out how to move on and get through that. And as hard as it may be, there’s growth that comes out of that moving-on process, and things you learn from it. And out of that growth comes... hope.”