Behind the Music
Make You Whole is jam-packed with infectious grooves and upbeat shuffles, but its lyrics also dig into what vulnerable strongholds of comfort remain in our fracturing world. It grapples with different strands of rejection (of the queer self, of one's own trauma, of the turbulent forces of our planet, of our loved ones), how our brokenness after rejection can form a patchwork of strength and wisdom, and how our beauty lies in the very fibers of this vulnerability. Especially when you’re dancing to these tunes about it.
Make You Whole opens with the chirping birds of "Reaching Out to the Blue Sky", when unfolding harmonies played by Sophia Spiegel on cello, Kevin Yetter on drums, Max Voda on violin, Ivan Cunningham on sax, and Mitch Van Laar on trumpet emulate the first rays of dawn. The intro is based on a song Spiegel wrote with cello and loop pedal about the potent, pungent kind of hope that is stirred when healing from trauma. This brief introit spins out of control into ragged cicada noises and chaotic horns, and it directly bleeds into a welcome groove that kicks off the second track of the album.
"Give Yourself Up to Yourself" was written by Spiegel and an old friend, Justin Halverson, when they were sitting along the shores of Lake Bde Maka Ska. They were talking about their shared experience with a storm in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, and how reverent they felt toward the earth’s gorgeous, terrifying, and at times deadly power during storms, especially during the restful serenity in the moments following. Spiegel had these chords she really liked in her back pocket, so with guitar in hand, Justin and her wrote the first verse and chorus together about humanity’s only choice to “follow” the forces of the suffering planet when faced with environmental destruction. She then developed this song, raised the tempo, gave the song a dynamic, smooth 12/8 beat with a bassy, core-shaking melody in an attempt to emulate a thunderstorm in the North Woods. This was the first tune she introduced to her band in the spring of 2022, and it quickly became a fan favorite of their sets performed in Minneapolis over that summer.
"As we sat on a lake
Thinkin' 'bout things
Waiting for the earth to take back what's hers
As we follow"
The record forges on to "See How She Moves," a song Spiegel wrote for the first person she had an intimate queer relationship with. This tune, though ultimately a celebration of this person's beauty and verve, is also grappling with deep-seated shame about her queerness and not knowing how to express or navigate it. The song is adorned with as many cross rhythms as one could tastefully add, thanks to the production and auxiliary percussion work of Adam Tucker, and builds up to a masterfully chaotic solo played by Will Kjeer (keys), which is compounded by Yetter's equally chaotic rolls.
"See how she cocks her long neck in the gold sunlight?
I am disarmed
Oh so charmed
Almost harmed by the ecstasy of her flight"
"Beloved Beckons" is about the moment before a serious relationship might start, and the ecstatic torment that hangs between the choice to run away or give into love. In typical Dilly fashion, this song also spins into disarray when Sophia layers cyclical harmonies, vocal runs, and at some moments, screams(!) about "space, time, blood, and whatever's in store" as Ivan Cunningham (sax) similarly floats up and down the dorian scale with increasing zeal.
"There you were I opened the blinds
Suspended by some miracle The sun broke through my skin
Took my breath away She tucked inside her rays a sweet sadness
Lying Somewhere between beauty and pain"
The midpoint and title track's counterpart is "Bathtub Born", and some might say it is the sappy solo nonsequitur of the album. This song was born on the loop pedal in February of 2022 after Sophia had a traumatic encounter with an old partner and some healing reflections about it while taking a bath. She wanted to wrap her mind around the fact that people who commit violence are grappling with their own loneliness, are in a hell of their own making, and have built harmful dams between their actions and their ability to peacefully reconcile those actions. Not everyone should invite this consideration, but thinking about this helped Sophia heal from her experience. This moody art pop disruption to a primarily indiefunk record is brought back to center by the album's title track that follows.
"Curled up in my womb tonight
Salving the scratches and the bites
They say sticks and stones can break your bones
But it can also leave you running from a loving home."
Title track and thematic crux of the record, "Make You Whole", was written on a trip up to the Boundary Waters, when Spiegel and some close friends almost capsized during a big and deadly storm. Though they made it to safety and found shelter, Spiegel remembers that experience rousing an intense appreciation for the earth's immaculate power, and how by completely submitting oneself to that power, we can be made whole again. Things will get messy, life will get hard, but listen closely and find that the earth can teach us how to come home again:
"A loon calls like a siren in the night
And even with her heavy bones, she can easily take flight
Isn't it funny how it goes away when you give in?
When tides come to terms with the up and down that the moon has got them spinnin' in?"
Turning towards more sticky feelings, "Your Lies Are Like Rivers" is about the difficulty navigating a relationship where trust and communication have lapsed, and how the person more invested in the relationship often has to "swim upstream" to get the answers they need when deciding to stay or leave. It ends hopefully with these lyrics:
"The earth is round, and she'll hold you down...
The sky is blue, and she'll weep for you...
The trees are green, and they'll make you feel seen...
The people convene, and they'll make you feel complete..."
The pentultimate tune of the record, "They Say the Heart Can't Break," concludes the recurring theme of this album with an important appendix to this song's title: "They say the heart can't break, but if it do(es), it holds the universe." Spiegel wrote this song when she was a school social worker often working with survivors of domestic violence. She grew angry at how abuse was preserved by intentionally disguised power structures that were actively enabled by many advocates within the system. She wanted this song to remind survivors silenced by shame that they belong to an infinite well of love in this world, even if it might not be evident. She also wanted this song to be angry. This song is dense, brooding, and grungy, but its pervasive groove emphasizes a hopeful message that boils down to this: when pain is embraced in all of its messiness, it has the ability to unfold into a profoundly wise lens to look through and "hold the universe." At one point, the band commences a beat "count down" by shaving a beat off the measure every four bars, while Kjeer blasts off into the upper stratospheres of the sonic universe with a bombastic and unraveling solo. This tune is slippery and dissociative, but it tethers you down with a hopeful message and a grounded, happy ending.
With all this record's density and sappiness, Spiegel wanted to end this record with a tune that just didn't matter that much. At least thematically. "You're Not the One" is intentionally light hearted. It's about loving someone a lot while also fully knowing that the relationship will never work out, and that's ok. It ends with a break up, a shrug, and a hypnotic trumpet blast played by Van Laar above a catchy, gaudy riff. Then it rains, the listener gets to wash off what they just listened to, and walk away, hopefully with a couple of new tunes and insights bouncing around in their head.
"Loved you good for a minute,
I had my eyes closed, but I could trace every web you were spinnin'..."