Premiere: The Western Den’s Haunting “Hem” Contemplates Place and Purpose

The Western Den © Jordan Rich
The Western Den’s introspective “Hem” electrifies with stirring warmth and subtle emotion as the duo explore individuality, partnership, place and purpose.

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I think we are wired as humans to both over-romanticize love and be jaded by it all at once.

Since revamping themselves and debuting this summer, Boston duo The Western Den have mesmerized their listeners with intimate alt-folk musings on identity, relationships, and more. Following June’s “I Still Remain” and August’s “Spark, Set Fire,” the band’s introspective new song “Hem” electrifies with stirring warmth and subtle emotional energy as they explore individuality, partnership, place and purpose.

found me on a fixed dream,
hanging by a fixed seam,
is there anybody hanging with me?
hemmed up waiting,
all still waiting,
let the water wade in,
past the tide,
be gracious rain falls,
invariably in line,
Stream: “Hem” – The Western Den

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Hem,” The Western Den’s newest song release and the third offering from their forthcoming debut album A Light Left On, due out in early 2019 via Antifragile Music. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, The Western Den is comprised of “introspective pianist” Deni Hlavinka and “bright-eyed guitarist” Chris West. The pair refer to themselves as musical soulmates, getting together over seven years ago and spending the ensuing years developing their sound and style over three EPs and a continuous stream of demos.

The latest releases in advance of A Light Left On best capture The Western Den’s luminous nature and multifaceted artistry, capturing their growth beyond the traditional interpretations of a ‘folk’ band as they embrace indie rock and ambient, alternative influences to carve out a delicate ethereal earthiness that is all their own.  “Hem” finds  Chris West assuming lead vocal responsibilities in a slow-building track that pushes us toward uncomfortable, but important questions about ourselves and those closest to us.

if you’re a thread, i’m a sharp knife,
always cutting loose ties,
it’s habitual, akin to repeat,
hemmed up waiting,
all still waiting,
a solder too decayed to gratify,
your hands expecting,
to be invariably in mine
Hem - The Western Den

Hem – The Western Den

The song’s understated dynamics and subdued guitar work eventually breaks out in a chorus full of yearning. Harmonic flourishes, both vocally and instrumentally, add distinctive layers of passion to an already stirring moment of truth for the narrator and listeners alike:

there’s a certain kind of love i need,
all intently breathing,
what a pretty, little homily,
if only it would keep me,
i’ve been swimming in salts,
just to feel my blood burning again,
but the stinging rings cold,
an idle moan,
these eyes don’t know,
that i don’t know,

“‘Hem’ is about individuality and compatibility, and the difficulty of both coexisting harmoniously,” The Western Den tell Atwood Magazine. “It begins with the search for someone who can effortlessly meet you where you are. (“Found me on a fixed dream/hanging by a fixed seam/is there anybody hanging with me?”) The song continues into a relationship – the narrator uncertain of their affinity to each other due to personal tendencies (“if you’re a thread, I’m a sharp knife/always cutting loose ties/it’s habitual, akin to repeat”). There is a lot of apprehension and indecision in the song, frustrating at times, like ripping off a bandage slowly. (“I’ve been swimming in salts just to feel my blood burning again/but the stinging rings cold/an idle moan/these eyes don’t know that I don’t know”).”

The pair continue their reflection: “I think we are wired as humans to both over-romanticize love and be jaded by it all at once. Often, we expect the perfect complement to our personalities to appear out of thin air without warning – to demolish our walls without strain and to intuitively locate and fill in our internal holes. If the relationship falters, it’s terrifying to discern if it was intended to all along, or if our habits as individuals magnify doubt where it exists and creates it if it doesn’t.”

The Western Den © Jordan Rich

The Western Den © Jordan Rich

Deeply poetic and philosophically heavy, “Hem” highlights The Western Den’s top qualities: Their outside-the-box thoughtfulness, their rich-yet-subtle harmonic flavors, and their sonic self-control / musical restraint. Their patience – that ability to spend half a song in the spaces in-between, steadily moving toward broader dynamics and fuller-bodied tones closer to the finale – helps make “Hem” the compelling provocateur we hear today.

Such is the magic of The Western Den, and the beauty we have to look forward to on their debut album. Stream “Hem” exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and stay tuned for more from this artist-to-watch as they gear up for debut album A Light Left On, out in early 2019.

Stream: “Hem” – The Western Den

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Hem - The Western Den

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Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com