Merival
Lesson

by Jim Di Gioia

June 26, 2019

Lesson reminds us that when it comes to navigating the connections that bind us, we’re all life-long learners.

No amount of formal education adequately prepares us for the random informality of everyday life. The very act of living is an ongoing lesson, one that can’t be summarized in a textbook.  

Capturing life and relationships’ irregularity on record is another matter, though. On her first full-length, Lesson, Merival (singer-songwriter Anna Horvath) delivers a masterclass in expressing how one’s internal struggles influence our external connections with others and vice versa. “Once I tried to calculate /  the length of every step I’d took to date,” she admits on the hauntingly minimal opening song “Miles”, an undertaking she immediately recognizes as being impossible: “Never could I truly see / miles never had the heart of me.” 

Our hearts don’t travel in straight lines. Linear measurements have no place in our emotional world. So Lesson soon throws off both the limiting shackles of the corporeal world and musical conventions to go wherever Horvath’s heart wants to take her.  “Sinner” emerges as a mournful guitar-led ballad from swelling synths only to blossom into a gorgeous full-band affair complete with weeping strings. “Novel” strips Merival’s music back to bare-bones, punctuating every emotional tug of the heartstrings with a subtle tremolo guitar stab that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“Good Enough Again” swings from lullaby to fever dream, wholly satisfying on its own while perfectly encapsulating the many detours and randomness at the core of Lesson: “Round and around goes my mind / when will the lights go out? / so I know I am good enough again.” Algebra and grammar may be dictated by formulas and rules, but interpersonal relationships are ruled by chaos theory. Lesson is Merival’s way of reminding us that when it comes to navigating the connections that bind us, we’re all life-long learners.

Jim Di Gioia

CoFounder at DOMINIONATED
Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.
Jim Di Gioia

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