After dazzling the indie music world with his brilliant debut album, Sewing Kit (2018), my friend Roland Faunte is back. Needle and Thread builds upon the thematic trajectory of Roland’s 2018 masterpiece while taking his sound in new directions. This LP feels like a more optimistic response to the conflicts introduced in Sewing Kit. Still, those unyielding conflicts continue to linger even in Needle and Thread: depression, bipolar disorder, loneliness, isolation, suicidal ideation, and existential despair. But while the former dabbled in these issues with a touch of ominous fear, the latter handles them as a more peripheral aspect of his life. Then again, Needle and Thread is not an arbitrary experience; Roland has made it clear to fans that their interpretations of his music are just as valid as his own.
The nine-song tracklist spans a total of 66 minutes, so there is a lot to unpack. And yet the album never drags. The opening track “Ceremonies” combines visceral storytelling with a sense of meteoric energy that I’d never heard in any of his prior music. The production continues Roland’s trademark sense of ornate intimacy while incorporating an elegant blend of drums, piano, guitar, vocal layerings, and sound effects. After “Ceremonies” comes “Once It Starts,” a song that explores the ramifications of his mental health issues over the steady strum of an acoustic guitar. And by the time you reach “Ode,” the album starts to feel like a rollercoaster of emotions and sounds. “Ode” explores Roland’s life, his youth, his struggles, and how he overcomes them. His vocals in “Ode” are especially salient, as he belts with a palpable sense of passion that allows the song to further pulverize our hearts.
Life gets tough
I fix what’s wrong
But that’s not enough
Once it starts it doesn’t stop.
It’s a lifelong ride
That I can’t get off
It’s a blindfolded rollercoaster ride
My body’s freeOnce It Starts
My thoughts are stuck
In the front row seat
And once it starts it doesn’t stop.
The next track “Anchor” is a breathtaking one. Juxtaposing the facets of him that engender pain with the facets that give him the conviction to rise above these pains, Roland utilizes a slew of literary elements. Declaring “I am the reason I suffer but I am worth fighting for,” “Anchor” gradually evolves from a subtle, slow track that laments his pains to an enthralling anthem of hope and positivity—ending with a crescendo of instruments. The next song “Believe Me” is a fine work of poetry that incorporates neat orchestral elements and sound effects. Spanning six and a half minutes, “Believe Me” starts out slow and then slowly picks up and picks up before it culminates in the last few minutes (much like a Radiohead song). After that comes “Burden,” a song that—along with “Anchor”—stands out in terms of its individual punching power. “Burden” embodies the term dynamic. It synthesizes both acoustic and digital sounds with excellent song structure, from the verses to the bridges to the chorus, before yet another spectacular culmination in its outro. This track reminds me of the Sewing Kit songs that I fell so deeply in love with.
Feels a thousand times more dangerous
When I can’t say for certain
Why exactly I am hurting.
And that’s why
I need you to believe me
You might not think it’s real
But this can’t be how I’m supposed to feel.
I owe my thanksBelieve Me
To the people that believed me
I can’t prove the things I feel
But they still trusted they were real.
The final three-song stretch of the album is its longest. With each containing a length of at least seven minutes, they might not get the millions of views that some of Roland’s hits have achieved. But that doesn’t make them any less precious. In fact, this section of the album represents its lyrical apex; Roland’s raw, fascinating, moving bits of poetry are invaluable. “Let Me Go,” the first of the three, touches upon the fantasy of death, the allure of suicide for those who don’t feel like life is worth the perpetual misery they endure. The duo of acoustic guitar chords and pretty piano tunes used are apt. And later on, Roland reaches a paradigm shift: when he conquered those feelings, stating “I’m not going anywhere.” The next song, “How’d You Do,” reaches even farther with a kaleidoscopic focus on the entirety of human life. A musically stripped-down track that deploys only the use of a piano, “How’d You Do” implores us to make the most of our time on Earth. Finally, “Doin’ Well” closes the album with a 19-minute lyrical masterpiece. Yet again deploying just a piano (which, despite Roland’s exceptional ability to play the instrument, is used cautiously to emphasize the lyrics), Roland ends with a song whose intimate storytelling is worth every second—with so much depth that it’d take thousands of listens to pick up each of the countless facets woven carefully into the track.
No matter how hard I keep trying I’ll never keep doing well
I need something more than what’s worldly and average
I need something cosmic come feed me some magic.
Just something that doesn’t break down every time I’m not doing well
Though love is the ultimate joy in the world
It still stops at the gates of the infinite forest.
If love is the ultimate truth then I think I might need a lie
Awareness is what got me into this mess
So maybe some blindness will grant me some rest.
Or maybe the lies are the actual natural way of lifeDoin’ Well
And eyes ever opened will make you feel hopeless
So do what you can to keep life out of focus.
As if Sewing Kit wasn’t already consummate proof of his genius, Needle and Thread cements Roland’s status as a musical polymath: an elite lyricist, poet, singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, producer, and sound engineer. Songs like “Anchor” are wonderful, densely-packed pieces of music. And songs like “Doin’ Well” consist of some of the most poignant lyricism I’ve ever heard. Roland’s ability to express himself in such an eloquent, cathartic way is unprecedented. He is an inspiration to countless people, one who truly cares about his many diehard fans, and the only direction he can go from here is up. Granted, as I stated in my Sewing Kit review, Roland’s music isn’t for everyone per se. It can be melancholy. The depth of its often somber emotions isn’t something that those who prefer “easygoing music” will necessarily love. Plus everyone has distinct tastes. Still, those who do connect with Needle and Thread will find it devastatingly beautiful. I hate to even assign a “rating” to this impeccable album; besides, its value is priceless for the countless listeners who literally rely on Roland to get through their own hard times. I too am one of those listeners. And indeed, Needle and Thread is another colossal achievement for a burgeoning young musician that I am genuinely privileged to call a friend.
P.S. Please support my guy and save his music! Also, below are links to his official pages.