Home Read Albums Of The Week: Brandy Zdan | Falcon

Albums Of The Week: Brandy Zdan | Falcon

Atmospherically haunting and gut-punchingly intense, the Canadian ex-pat's latest channels the darkest moments of her life into the most powerful work of her career.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “For decades now, the channeling of trauma or anger or sadness through an electric guitar, an overdriven amplifier, and an earnest voice have been the cornerstone of rock ’n’ roll music, and the most clever — and successful — at getting their point across are those who make the whole experience both entertaining and relatable.

When Winnipegger-turned-Nashvillian rocker Brandy Zdan finally sat down to tell the story of the most difficult period of her life, she followed these basic rock ’n’ roll guidelines and then some, extracting a jubilant and liberating truth for herself and everyone else who might need to hear it. Her new album Falcon — completely self-written, self-recorded, self-produced, and self-engineered — “is my story of the last two years,” she says. “A story of miscarriage, loss, grief, pregnancy, motherhood, trauma, isolation, depression, hope, and love. I gave birth in a pandemic, became a mother in isolation, pressed pause on my career, lost my livelihood, battled postpartum depression, and faced some of the darkest moments of life. Grand plans of big producers and fancy studios fell away, and I had to figure out a way of telling my story on my own.”

Zdan recently dropped a video for The Worst Thing ahead of Falcon. With a stack of vocals singing “beauty or pain / does not matter / it can be both somehow / that’s how we got here,” The Worst Thing hits hard sonically and lyrically. “Who needs a fist-in-the-air riff-rock song about miscarriage and abortion? Every woman does,” says Zdan. “The Worst Thing is simply a song about having to remain silent about the tragic events that can happen to women’s bodies.”

The video, filmed in the Red Rocks of Colorado in the springtime, was directed by Taylor McFadden. Serendipitously, when Zdan reached out about doing something together, McFadden mentioned her boyfriend had a classic car she’d been wanting to use in a video. The car? A 1961 Ford Falcon.

After years of producing songs for other artists, Zdan decided to finally attend an audio engineering class at night to fill in her formal educational gaps. Her Daniel Lanois-esque soundscapes draw out the subtle details of her instruments and melodies, almost akin to how a professional photographer can accurately capture the jaw-dropping beauty of nature. “Too many times as women in the industry, we won’t call ourselves what we are until we are overqualified to do so. A dude who has 50% of the experience will say what he is no problem,” she says. “I’m making a specific effort to say, ‘Yes, I am all of these things.’ I may not have formal training on large consoles in huge studios, but I made all of these songs sound the exact way I wanted them to sound in real time with limited tools. I didn’t just self-produce a record. I am an engineer.”

After flirting with the idea of calling this new album life/death/life, a reference to the cyclical nature of her experiences, Zdan instead took note of the symbolism surrounding her. While grappling with her miscarriage, she experienced a vision of a spirit floating up to the sky on a falcon’s wing. Shortly afterward, she started to see a falcon fly throughout her neighborhood. Then, the week before her daughter was born, that falcon returned to perch on her property. The bird felt like an obvious icon for what her album stood for; strength despite size, gentle tenacity, and an ability to soar through the roughest weather. Listening to Falcon, those themes of perseverance and understated courage not only come through but are so effective that it feels like being in the room next to Zdan while she plays the album, recognizing those very traits within oneself and becoming part of a community that refuses to stay silent. “This album is a victory to overcoming almost every obstacle that can be thrown at a woman, mother, and musician,” she says, “and coming out on the other side intact and better for it.”