Calling the ten tunes of Dawnbreaker breakup songs is to hamstring them with elegiac expectations, to paint them as sad-eyed surrenders to loss and grief. Even amid the throes of a life convulsion, there is a wisp of hope and possibility. The songs range in style from a hushed number that explores the turmoil of being unable to reciprocate the feelings of a wild and shy, tall and fine man to another that is a blossoming country shuffle.
The very heart of Dawnbreaker is not the impending breakup that inspired many of its songs but the sense of liberation and breaking out that the breakup inspired. Buoyed by the insistent patter of a drum machine and rich acoustic guitars, Sauser-Monnig finds herself in search of new thrills on another song, whether pondering the fleeting nature of existence at a waterfall's edge or watching the shapes of mountains seemingly dance beneath her headlights. While we can hear the muted, harmonica-lined boogie of another that begins with a vulnerable confession, a revelation of loneliness; it is, however, a low-key anthem for the open road, about giving oneself over to the infinity of solitude and an endless strip of asphalt. Sauser-Monnig captures these scenes with a painter's eye and delivers them with a novelist's heart.
Daughter of Swords is the alias of Mountain Man's Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. Her debut album, Dawnbreaker began as the first phase of Sauser-Monnig's return to music after stepping to the sidelines for the better part of a decade. Her college trio, Mountain Man, rose to quick acclaim for their peerless harmonies around 2010, but the friends slowly drifted apart, following their own interests to different coasts and concerns. While working on a flower farm as a farmhand, though, Sauser-Monnig realized that she missed the emotional articulation she found in writing songs and singing them and resolved to start again. She pieced together an album just as Mountain Man - now newly gathered in the fertile Piedmont of North Carolina - began to regroup for its second LP, 2018's aptly named Magic Ship. Working with Sylvan Esso's Nick Sanborn, Sauser-Monnig shaped what began as quiet reflections into confident compositions, crackling with country swagger and a sparkling pop warmth.