Sailors carry a shark’s tooth as a talisman against drowning. In a time when it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, singer-songwriter Kierstin Sieser’s solo album, Shark Tooth Moon, is a seven-song talisman for a journey through deep waters and dark forests. “They are love songs, really,” she explains–though not always in a traditional sense.
“I think songs are like spells or a subconscious humming—they have a power when you sing them,” Sieser explains. While songs she wrote with band Tiny Ocean were about alienation, these songs emphasize “being seen… being found.”
It’s a view achieved through glimpses in mirrors and still reflecting ponds. The lead single, “In the Reading,” starts with a wish to connect. With the feel of a folk song as old as mountains, it spirals into a refrain of “we’re going down and we don’t know how to stop it.” This is a fairytale, though—a place to face down wonders and terrors, a place to solve the riddle. Wait for the last line.
Digging for Meaning
The pandemic has changed Sieser’s creative process but not her urge to create. Instead of recording at a friend’s studio, she put together her own DIY set-up. “I think now more than ever, we need to create art,” she says. “It lets us dig in the weird, sometimes uncomfortable places in our personal and collective psyche.”
Shark Tooth Moon delves deep. “The Guest” shifts from an eerie plea to be seen to a cheerful explanation that “I’m the monster in your bed.” “The Underworld” wraps the listener in a dark, safe place where sirens sing. “My Sister, Myself” finds connection and vulnerability in tiny details turned into mythic symbols.
The album unspools a thread through the woods for the listener to follow, without telling us how to feel. Repeated phrases shift meaning, from reassurances to threats to questions. Listeners can be the siren or the sailor. The hopefulness is in the reading. “I want people to feel like when they were a child and they read a strange fairy tale or poem—a sense of wonder but also familiarity.”
Finding and Change
At the end of the journey is change. “I would love for people to realize we need radical change, not incremental,” Sieser says. She’s talking political and economic change, including better support for the workers who keep the world functioning: “grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, medical professionals, and—I can’t stress this enough—artists.”
Sales of Shark Tooth Moon will benefit the artist relief fund recently opened by Arts Council of Greater New Haven. It’s available for pre-order (release date April 20), with “In the Reading” available now. Mike Liquori produced the album and also plays electric guitar on some tracks.