Music Notes with Maddy: Track 4

An album that toils with paradoxes surrounding both help and hurt.


Maddy Bergey, Editor

Continuing on this music note series, Pharmakon is the next album up! Produced by Humbird—a local folk band—in 2019, it has now been performed all over the midwest . . . and beyond! Though Siri Undlin is the mastermind behind the band, she has three other band members—Pat Keen, Peter Quirsfeld, and Adelyn Strei—who help immensely with the instrumentals and background vocals.

This album starts off with the song “48 hours,” which was actually written after a shift in Minneapolis, where the lead singer was working as a pizza waitress. It reflects how humans can change and evolve so much depending on their circumstances and environment.

“Wolf Alice” comes consequently. Despite the fairytale-related storyline within this song, its meaning goes deeper, as it reflects the historical attempt to civilize women’s bodies as oppressive forces. Along similar storylines about females’ unique positions in society, “Eve Boards a Train” follows.

Just one song later comes the basis of the album: “Pharmakon.” As defined by philosopher Plato himself, the word pharmakon is the concept that something could both be simultaneously the poison and the cure, depending on the amount consumed. Overall, this song is an ode to the complexity of many things in life, as various precarious choices could either lead to a grand resolution or detriment.

“Sea Shells”—perhaps one of my favorites on the album—comes next. In my own interpretation, this song reflects the masks or various identities that tangible beings can take. Much like shells, which are remnants of life, humans also leave remnants of themselves when their bodies leave the earth. Furthermore, though, the lyrics are also reflective of the fact that despite using masks to hide parts of oneself, time goes on, and life continues.

To end the album, “Bone Heat” brings up the rear. This song is honestly quite eery, alternative, and suspenseful. The unique rhythms and instrumentals combine with lyrics that seem to remind listeners that underneath everything, we are all made of the same structures: bones!