Daniel Neagoe, the alter ego of Clouds, has explained that after the release of the 2018 album Dor he felt that the band had reached its inevitable consummation, and that nothing remained for him to say through Clouds. It was time to let it rest. And then one of life’s tragedies disrupted those plans.
In particular, Neagoe lost a parent to cancer, after first bearing witness to months of continuous torment. As he has written, seeing the fear, the panic, the pain, the delusions, and the helplessness of a parent, and the shame that comes to a loved one unable to take care of their most personal and private needs, is itself a terrible experience, made all the more frightening by the “the constant fear that one day they will close their eyes forever”. And of course, after struggling to be as much a comfort as possible, that fear became a reality for him.
This wrenching experience led to the rebirth of Clouds, and to the new album Durere, which was released on March 1st. It represents, in Neagoe’s words, “a part of a soul going out to another soul”. And that is what it sounds like, though the souls who may now receive and benefit from it still breathe.
One of the songs on Durere, “Empty Hearts“, becomes especially poignant — and crushing — with the knowledge of what inspired the album. In its words, it tells of the dying of light, of the stopping of time, of the heartbreak of deep grief, of the loss of strength to carry on. And the power of the music is in tune with the words and the feelings. It’s no wonder that this song was chosen as the subject of a music video, which we’re privileged to present today.
The song is spellbinding. In its opening minutes, the velvet softness of the music, the soulful sorrowing of a flute, and the haunting timbre of Daniel Neagoe‘s voice seems to transport us into a spirit realm, a place of reflection stripped of mundane intrusions — but not of painful memory.
But the song is also harrowing. The sickle of death sweeps down in Neagoe‘s tormented roars, in the plunging heaviness of the bass, in the wrenching wails of the violin, in the crack and tumble of the drums. The song gives itself over to haunting memories again as Neagoe‘s singing voice soars, and then becomes the crescendo of a splintered soul. Building from the depths of its grief, however, the music also becomes glorious, and heart-swelling, as if yearning for a release from torment.
Listening to music that expresses such profound sorrow may raise again the age-old question about why human beings are so often drawn to sad music. There are many theories, and many of them seem true.
When such music succeeds in capturing our own experiences, we feel less alone, and in some measure comforted by the reminder that what we’re feeling is human. It may also allow for the catharsis of emotions such as pity, fear, and grief, and in that way becomes a form of therapy. Even when we’re not feeling downcast ourselves, such music also seems to have an emotional power that’s charismatic and compelling in a way that “brighter” music often isn’t — as a form of art to be appreciated, it seems to hit harder, and to provoke a stronger response in the listener, and in that way makes us, perhaps paradoxically, feel more alive.
A good argument could be made that the power of “Empty Hearts” derives from all these phenomena.
The thoroughly engrossing video for “Empty Hearts” was directed, edited, and produced by Razvan Alexandru.
If by chance you haven’t yet listened to Durere, you should, and we’ve included the complete album stream along with this new video.
Durere is available now in a digipack CD edition, and a limited wooden-box CD edition (vinyl editions have already sold out), and it’s also available as a digital download at Bandcamp and all other major digital platforms:
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