In his powerful, gutting “Bound for Glory,” singer/songwriter The Magic Lantern captures the beauty and wonder in love’s small acts and how they give a life meaning and purpose.
Stream: “Bound for Glory” – The Magic Lantern
Death and taxes may be the only two certainties in life, but in between our beginnings and our ends lies a wondrous world of discovery, passion, emotion, and experience. Some may find fulfillment in travel and bridging cultures; others may take joy from work, and the feeling that they have made some kind of impact on the world. For many, love itself is all it takes to lead a meaningful, “successful” life: In his powerful, heart-wrenching new single and video “Bound for Glory,” singer/songwriter The Magic Lantern captures the beauty and wonder in love’s small acts and how they give a life meaning and purpose.
It’s a testament to our inherent fragility, as well as a beacon of inner strength.
Bound for glory, headed nowhere
Jump on board, we’re leaving soon
All this sound and fury signifies nothing
The heart’s a drum that’s losing time
We’re heading home
Home to glory
– “Bound for Glory,” The Magic Lantern
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the music and Mirco Guidon-directed video for “Bound for Glory,” the lead single off The Magic Lantern’s forthcoming fourth album A Reckoning Bell (out November 5, 2021 via Hectic Eclectic Records). The longtime moniker for Australian-born, UK-based singer/songwriter Jamie Doe, The Magic Lantern has been granting spellbinding wishes (in song) for over a decade now; his albums A World in a Grain of Sand (2011), Love of Too Much Living (2014), and To the Islands (2018) have all arrested our unsuspecting souls with vivid lyricism and exceptionally colorful, creative songwriting.
One song does not an album make, but if “Bound for Glory” is in fact a faithful representation of A Reckoning Bell, then The Magic Lantern’s latest album will surely be his best effort yet. A radiantly expressive, musically kaleidoscopic outlet for haunting reflections on existence, “Bound for Glory” finds the artist dwelling in visceral personal depths as he searches for meaning – in life, as in song. Doe explains that A Reckoning Bell was written and recorded while helping to care for his father, who has Alzheimer’s Disease; in opening the album “Bound for Glory,” serves as both a conceptual and musical introduction to this complex, yet deeply substantial record as a whole.
‘Bound for Glory’ announces a lot of the musical and lyrical themes of the record, examining what loss can teach us about love and how love’s many small acts give a life meaning.
“The theme of the song is defiantly existential and circles around the question that if life has no inherent meaning, from where do we find the meaning to enable us to carry on? And the answer I keep on coming back to is love and it’s many small, everyday acts,” Jamie Doe tells Atwood Magazine. “The last few years have been really difficult for our family, living in the shadow of the inevitable progression of my Dad’s Alzheimer’s disease. Around the same time as his diagnosis five years ago, I met my wife Rhia and these two events have formed the intertwining threads that have dominated how I see and understand the world these days. I’ve learnt about how tenacious and fierce love can be, how determined and desperate it is, and ultimately that without it nothing matters. Nothing at all.”
“The lyric approaches this in a number of different ways. The title is a reference to Woody Guthrie’s autobiography of the same name, taken according to Woody from a hobo term for jumping a train with no care for the destination. I liked that idea as a metaphor for life. I also used a Shakespearean line that I love that similarly connects with this existential idea that ‘all this sound and fury signifies nothing’. The idea of ‘bound for glory’ also made me think of gospel ideas of death as heading ‘home to glory’ and the inevitability of loss as part of life. Although I’m not religious, I find the poetry of the Bible very powerful and the choruses all use this as the central idea, ‘we’re heading home, home to glory, to find a place of our own.’ The first two verses ask the questions while the third and climatic verse gives the answer, juxtaposing a Biblical verse ‘without love a clanging cymbal be’ polyphonically against the everydayness of ‘Light a candle baby / run a bath as a star implodes / Do that thing that makes me smile.‘ I liked the contrasting scales here – of something as simple as running a bath against the enormity of knowing that somewhere right now a whole star is imploding.”
Clothed in self-importance, dressed for a future
That seems so sure to youth’s naked eye
It’s a heavy load hope’s pulling distant horizon
Bends to meet us as we go
We’re heading home, home to glory
To find a place of our own
An eclectic composition at the core, “Bound for Glory” thrives on atypical time signatures and an expansive piano that, in its performance, seems to capture the chaos and smattering of life itself.
“Musically, ‘Bound for Glory’ is a good introduction to the direction of this album as a whole, as I wrote it at the piano and it has this off kilter piano riff at its heart,” Doe explains. “This is the most piano heavy record I’ve made and comes after my EP for solo piano My Soul Is A Strange Country that I released in December last year. I grew up playing the piano and my writing, even on the guitar, has long been influenced by the contemplative pianism of Bill Evans and the harmonic approach of composers such as Debussy and Ravel. So writing songs at the piano felt like a natural progression once I had found my way back to it through the more private reflections of the EP.”
“The piano riff at the centre of ‘Bound for Glory’ has odd bars of 7 and 4 which gives the piece the sense of leaning or tumbling forward. We combined this with drums and synth bass to build a driving momentum that echos the metaphors of movement and travel. This contrasts with the chorale-like chorus where stacked trombones float out of time around the line ‘Heading home, home to glory’. Musically, the song’s two main sections juxtapose our restless search for meaning and each life’s ultimate ending. The third verse has this polyphonic vocal section, which is the first time I’ve written in that style, where I have two different vocals singing at the same time – one singing this long ascending step-wise melody, almost like climbing up to a nominal heaven or some kind of release using the line ‘without love a clanging cymbal be.‘ Overall it’s a song that feels like it announces a certain confidence in my writing and a willingness to keep exploring song forms, colours and textures in a way that is led by the lyric. I’m quite proud of it.”
On the topic of music, Doe, adds, “This is also my first experience working with Chris Hyson, who normally plays bass in the live band, as a producer. I’ve loved Chris’ solo work and with his band Snowpoet, but over the past few years I’ve also been a big admirer of his production with Jordan Rakei and Alison Sudol. So when this set of piano based songs started to emerge I knew I wanted to work with him on it. The process was very organic and quite a contrast to my previous record. It was very iterative, constantly trying things, layering them, adding and taking away, which meant that what it lacked in efficiency it made up for in a free flowing creativity that led the record to places neither of us could have expected.”
Light a candle baby
Run a bath as a star implodes
Do that thing that makes me smile
We’re heading home
Home to glory
To find a place of our own
Alongside the song, The Magic Lantern’s beautifully cinematic music video – a film accompaniment, really – brings to life the song’s most vulnerable, poignant, and meaningful sentiments.
Shot in Australia’s Blue Mountains and starring Ivar Kants and Tina Bursill, the film jumps between visions of free-spirited train-jumping and shots of everyday life at home. Doe calls it “a very personal analogy to what’s happening with my family right now, about the journeys we go on to find meaning in love in the shadow of impending loss.”
“The way the video came about was really interesting,” Jamie Doe shares. “The director Mirco Guidon reached out to me last year to say that he had used a song of mine (Holding Hands) to get some actors into a particular emotional place before the climax of a shoot he’d been on and wanted to share the film with me and say thank you. I watched the film with zero expectations and was totally blown away by it. It’s so beautiful and real and moving, that the idea of one day working together lodged in my mind. Some months later when I was thinking about a video for ‘Bound for Glory,’ I wrote to Mirco to see if he’d be interested. We a few zoom chats and I told him very loosely what the song was about without going into the personal references and he proposed this incredible story line that unknowingly was almost a perfect mirror for the situation with my family.
“The video is about the journeys we go on to find love, and the meaning within it. Mirco proposed this beautiful idea of two intersecting narratives, one of a journey a man goes on in his mind to find his wife but not being able to reach her, intercut with the reality of their everyday life – the strains and frustrations of coping with his deterioration but also the love and dignity that remains. It was important to me that it be shot in Australia, sure in the knowledge that my Dad won’t ever get back there again (we’re all Australian, and moved to the UK at the end of 1997). In the end, Mirco shot it in the beautiful Blue Mountains outside Sydney. The train at the beginning a nod to the Woody Guthrie reference in the title of the song. I think what Mirco has made is really powerful and does a great job at showing the difference between how we see ourselves or would like to see ourselves and the more challenging reality. It also hints another key theme of the song, that of the unknowability of other people, that at one level, we’re all alone. Or at least that’s where it ends.”
“I think it was really interesting to make such an emotive film to a song that is rhythmically so upbeat and one that while inspired, like much of the album, by the sad reality of my family situation, is not a sentimental song. I think the film hits harder because of this contrast.”
As someone who has watched members of his own family slowly fade from view, “Bound for Glory” is a truly masterful work of art.
Together with Mirco Guidon, The Magic Lantern simultaneously showcases the pain of loss and the wonder of life; these seemingly contrasting concepts might not fit together in another context, but here, Jamie Doe has found a way to celebrate while in mourning. The film’s storyline is gutting – a heart-wrenching reminder of what can often feel like a terrifying ending – but there’s so much more to this song and video than meets the eye. Throughout these moving four minutes, we experience the immersive glow of love. It’s an overwhelming weight and a dazzling thing of beauty, all at once bringing pain and joy, passion and euphoria – but perhaps most of all, as Doe sings in his lyrics, it gives us purpose and fills our days with meaning. “Without love a clanging cymbal be.”
Maybe we’re all bound for glory at the end of our days.
Stream The Magic Lantern’s touching new single and cinematic film exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and stay tuned for more from Jamie Doe over the coming months. His fourth album The Reckoning Bell is out November 5, 2021 via Hectic Eclectic Records.
Stream: “Bound for Glory” – The Magic Lantern
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📸 © Dave Hamblett, design © Raimund Wong directed by Mirco Guidon
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