An Artist’s Sundown

It’s always a disappointment to see a talented artist or band step down from a musical career, but perhaps even more disappointing is when, rather than going out with a booming statement, they fade into the night without a word, and you’re left wondering if they might make a return someday.

Singer-songwriter Ben Jelen is one such artist for me; after two studio albums and a couple EPs, he put his solo career on hiatus in 2011 and pursued his music career in the band Under The Elephant.  However, the band’s only seen a single album release, and haven’t been heard of since.

The bright side of this is that, no matter where an artist goes, even if they pursue other career options, you always have the work that you love on which to fall back, and that’s what I rely on with Jelen.  He’s best known for his single “Come On” from debut album Give It All Away, but I most frequently fall back on “Setting Of The Sun,” the closing song of the same album.

A gentle, melancholy track, “Setting Of The Sun” is a song of endings, of hitting a wall, its two verses telling two separate stories of people who feel lost.  With piano at its base, careful acoustic guitar layers on top.  Echoing bass guitar widens its emotional depth in the second verse, but what truly brings it home is the fiddle that acts as a subtle accent until the end of the song, where it becomes the driving force behind its ultimate message of hope, Jelen’s raw, crooning vocals delivering his final advice in the absence of specific optimism: “We just have to believe.”

The full version includes a hidden track at the end, after a brief silence, but it’s the first four minutes that are my focus; it’s a calming composition, bringing to its forefront worry and loneliness, but the warm hues of sunset come to life in the timbre of distant strings as the fear of an ending turns into the promise of a new beginning.  It’s a beautiful song that offers catharsis and comfort simultaneously, and it’s one that I’m glad got created during Jelen’s stay in music.  You can listen to it below.

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