On American Aquarium’s new album Lamentations, Barham shines light on dark American corners with heartbreaking conversations, long looks in the mirror, and empathetic questions, all through songwriting that is clear without sacrificing its poetry, and direct without losing its humanity.
As much as Barham appreciates an indignant protest song or one-sided anthem, he isn’t writing them. Instead, on Lamentations he’s making the political personal, reaching out to humanize folks with opposing viewpoints, and offering dignity instead of demonizing. The result is the strongest writing of Barham’s already stout career.
Album opener Me and Mine (Lamentations) is brooding and stormy, plaintive acoustic guitar undergirding Barham’s weathered vocals. Searching, frustrated, and sad, the song was written from the perspective of a conservative Southern voter who feels unseen, unheard, and short on hope. The broader message is immersive and immediate: Settle in and listen closely. Times are hard, and this record is going to talk about it. Barham, who doesn’t agree with the song’s protagonist politically, imbues him with respect and sympathetic fatigue.