On his EP The Kingdom Within, River wrestles with worry and heartache but he also bathes in love’s radiance.
It can be incredibly difficult to show anybody, even the people you’ve known for a long time, your inner self. To shed your facade, open up, and spill your guts takes a lot of courage, but if you can summon that strength or be lucky enough to witness somebody else who has summoned that courage, the results are beautiful. Montreal’s River (Wilson) offers us only a peek inside his vivid inner world (the kingdom within, to borrow his words) on his debut EP, but even that glimpse is breathtaking.
With the majority of songs clocking in under two minutes, The Kingdom Within is fragments glued together like a stained glass window. In snippets, we hear River wrestle with worry and heartache (“Don’t you know you are the one in my life until I’m dead? But it’s not the same for you,” he laments on the acapella track “In My Arms”) but he also bathes in love’s radiance (“Shine bright, you’re a star,” encourages River on “The Light”). River delivers these musings in a minimalist devotional-folk style that’s warm despite simple arrangements. Only on “Either/Or,” both the EP’s longest and loudest track, does River play with a full band as if to resist the tenor of the sad songs he sings about.
The most beautiful moment on The Kingdom Within is perhaps the smallest. River recounts a stoned stroll on “I Was on a Walk” with child-like observations: there’s a car and a skunk. He pauses, leaving us hanging on a drawn-out “oh,” before uttering the delicate admission that the entire song rests upon: “I wish that you were here.” Afterwards, you understand that the walk, the indica, and the observations are to distract River — like a 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique — from his suffering. His innermost wish is to reach out and touch his lover. The kingdom within alight.
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