In a recent interview with The Ringer, Iceage frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt shed some light on the creation of his band’s newest album, Seek Shelter:
“It’s kind of a pre-pandemic record. We recorded the base of it in December 2019. It’s very much a record that takes place in a world that you could still venture into and get lost.It’s a record that takes place out in the storm, so to speak. In the pandemic, we’ve had not much more than shelter to lean on. I think it’s a record that could only really be formed by the world before.”
To think Seek Shelter was primed for mastering before 2020 even started is baffling. It feels, in that sense, prophetic. What makes Seek Shelter such a unique album for Iceage is its ability to draw on the feelings we’ve all mutually shared this past year; that is, the need to find shelter from the outside world. Whether through love, religion, family, or drugs and alcohol. All of these coping mechanisms have a moment to shine on the record, appearing in varying capacities, and sometimes, all at once. Take the track “Dear Saint Cecilia,” which has Elias praying to god for Saint Cecilia’s musical blessing; you can hear the red wine he references dancing just under his tongue.
The tracks on Seek Shelter feel obsessed with things: the tangible subjects of these songs contribute to Ronnenfelt’s understanding of intangible song topics. Canaries in cages, trains rumbling on tracks, and guiding lights on neighbors’ lawns all act as beacons for malaise, entrapment, thundering apprehension and hopeful encouragement.
The songs have a vintage familial warmth, even at their noisiest, as if the band wrote them amidst their parents record collections and antique-laden shelves. The record has all intentions of enforcing these feelings of shelter, and the smothering walls of sound enhance the emotions: whether you feel kept safe or boxed in is entirely up to you.
Originally a four-piece, Iceage added a new member, guitarist Casper Morilla Fernandez, to provide these songs with some serious oomph, and his contributions are felt almost immediately through the bluesy swagger of opening track “Shelter Song.” As if ripped from the Rolling Stones themselves, Iceage seems to be pulling from the same realm of influence as their last record, Beyondless (2018): the realm of honky tonk seventies rock. The punk influences are still prevalent, but now the boys are digging a little deeper in their nostalgic goodie-bag.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who ended up back in my parents house during the pandemic, and the connections to family are a central theme throughout the entire record. Whether talking about the violence of lineages on “Vendetta,” or allusory references to fatherhood on “The Holding Hand” (Some power exceeds muscle/Even the weightless can outweigh/Put one over in the hustle/Teacher becomes protege), a through-line persists that we can all relate to: the family ties that protect us while the world falls apart outside in the rain. (There’s lots of rain on this album. You might wanna bring an umbrella.)
Throw in references to broken-heartedness (“Love Kills Slowly”) and hopes for something better coming along (“Gold City”) and we have the perfect post-punk dirge to help us cope with the past twelve months of fear, anxiety and bleak optimism.
By the time the explosive guns-blazing ending of “The Holding Hand” dissipates and the echoes of “a cavalcade pleading for relief” ring heavy in the air, we’re left to wonder how much of the sludge of the present can be masked by the gilded hope of the future? We may not know yet, but with Iceage’s knack for crafting predictive barn-burners depicting the crumbling of humanity, they may have the answer sooner than we think.