Brenna Lowrie’s releases have continued to lean more into the psych-folk realm over the years, and she sounds like she’s reached a kind of zen on Loss Leader.

In an ideal world, we’re completely in control of our emotions. Using copious logic, we see through all of our fallacies and stop ourselves from making the same mistakes over and over. We’ll know when our relationships have reached their endpoint; we’ll know not to dwell on the mistakes we have managed to make. Put more simply, we’ll know when to let go.

Brenna Lowrie knows this will never happen. Her releases have continued to lean more into the psych-folk realm over the years, and she sounds like she’s reached a kind of zen on Loss Leader. There’s a mysticism emanating from her arrangements and her lyrics — she sounds not quite detached, but rather like she’s re-emerged from a long session of introspection and can now express the feelings she previously couldn’t. 

The fleeting images of “Skin” make for a mysterious and hypnotic entry into the EP. Gorgeous classical guitar and the odd flourish of keys guide the listener through “The unknown underneath/Deep/Dreading both the tongue and teeth.” As she sings in the chorus of letting go, you can tell that letting go will be hard to do. That’s the tension of the album; Lowrie’s lyrics make it sound like she has the answers, but those so-called answers won’t be easy to implement. Similarly, with “Better Late Than Never,” a song awash in dark minor chords, she asks, “Why’d you take it so hard?/You’re bringing the sadness all by yourself/And you never could simply leave it alone.” Again, it would be great if we could identify our sadness and traumas for what they are and move on from them. But how? She looks back on a failed relationship on “Longest Night,” noting, “Never did we see the writing on the wall.” Would that we had such judgment in the moment.

“Trapped on the Ground” is the key to the puzzle box that is Loss Leader. It describes an entitled, unnamed “he” that wants the world to change for him. “Holding tight to each long-outgrown, hateful notion/He wanted recompense/For all the places he never went.” Lowrie figuratively pierces him with a powerful set of lines: “The highest judge/Is there to be jealous/Not to love.” Perhaps she’s also commenting on her other observations throughout the EP — it’s easy to see mistakes from a place of hindsight, but if we are always right and always make the right decision, we lose our ability to feel and be amazed when things go well or better than expected.

To that end, “Little Birds” closes the EP with a compact song about facing the choice to stay or leave. She notes, “When I just can’t grieve/Then I find that I’m someone/I don’t care to believe.” But then she gets out of that negative pattern by singing “Dare to believe!” It’s these little mantras that bring Lowrie out of gloom and detachment, perhaps none more powerful than some of the final lines of “Trapped on the Ground”: “Make way for magic! Make way for objective mystery!” Let things be unexplainable, and your life will be all the richer for it.

The Weakerthans
Left and Leaving