Wolfgang Webb Offers No Rest For The Wretched

The Toronto singer-songwriter keeps you company well into the wee small hours.

Wolfgang Webb weaves a tangled soundtrack for the long dark night of your soul with his new singles and videos Before You Sleep (The Pills) and Lonely Heart — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

Titling his debut album The Insomniacs’ Lullaby was the first clue that the Toronto singer-songwriter wanted to take us on an intimate nocturnal journey. But the length and depth of that trip doesn’t really hit home until you’ve heard two of its spotlight tracks, songs steeped in a melancholia that only the anguish of personal experience can convey.

Start with Before You Sleep (The Pills), which weds truly harrowing imagery to an uncompromising dirge with the compellingly funereal quality of Leonard Cohen — and a mournful lead vocal that has more than a tad of Tom Waits’ trademark grit:

“If you wake up before me, will you hold me?
Will you show me?
And if I can’t wait until morning, will you tell me it’ll be alright?
Hold me, hold me, my friend
The pills stopped working again.”

The first song written for the album, Before You Sleep ended up setting the pace for the entire project, not just in terms of mood but also methodology. “(All of the writing) was done in my bedroom between 2 and 6 in the morning,” Webb reveals. “I was in a manic-depressive, insomniac state where I wasn’t sleeping, and everything was very fluid. That’s just the way it was. It was really cathartic.”

Meanwhile, Lonely Heart has slightly more of a spring in its step rhythmically, but its lyrical sentiments won’t get it confused with a party anthem either. Acoustic- guitar chords fall dourly as Webb declares his longing for something better, with the chilling implication that the peace he’s searching for might not be on this side of the veil:

“I got feelings deep
A soul that needs
Transparency all the time
I know a place where the soul won’t break
Do you know what I mean?
I know a place where it’s not all take
Do you know what I mean?”

The subject matter might be bleak, but Webb’s overdue solo debut was delayed a couple of decades not because of depression or fatigue, but because he was simply too busy in his career as a sound designer and soundtrack composer for film and TV. Lucrative as that hustle may have been, though, it wasn’t always the best outlet for his own tastes and emotional needs.

The lyric sheet is fraught with references to heartbreak, depression, suicide, and the ghosts of sexual abuse, but The Insomniacs’ Lullaby is no wallow. It stares into the darkness with grace and poise and finds the transformative beauty in that darkness. Because that’s how you stop the darkness from getting the better of you.

Recorded everywhere from France to L.A. to Nashville to Toronto, the album finds this emergent talent backed by studio pros and veterans of sessions with Johnny Cash, The Pretenders, Lucinda Williams and others. The overall effect is as accomplished as you’d expect from that collective pedigree, and picturesque to a degree that fully befits Webb’s own CV. The songs on the album are so evocative and atmospheric, in fact, that you can easily envision them turning up in somebody else’s series or feature — perhaps as the music bed to a montage of desperate characters pacing worriedly through dimly lit rooms, with judicious jump cuts symbolizing their unraveling psyches.

Whatever happens, Webb says he’s been so energized by the experience that he now plans to release three albums in as many years. Somebody better put the coffee on; it sounds like he’s in for a lot more all-nighters.

Watch the videos for Before You Sleep (The Pills) and Lonely Heart above, check out the rest of The Insomniacs’ Lullaby below, and join Wolfgang Webb on his website, Instagram and Twitter.