Endings are seldom appreciated unless they’re immediately succeeded by the chance of renewal or rebirth. Both a TV finale and New Year’s Eve suggest the closing of a chapter, sometimes involving the loss of something special; only the latter, though, comes with the prospect of a new chapter. Though realistic hope for a new beginning is found nowhere in Elsa Åborg’s “I Cave,” the Stockholm-based artist does display a beautiful and permeating understanding of the need for resolution, a sentiment echoed far too rarely.
“I Cave” opens up slowly and quietly, with acoustic guitar plucking so soft it sounds subconscious, as though Åborg is thinking so deeply on a now-lost love that the music involuntarily flows out of her. Her unwavering voice enters with an aura of complete openness, naively holding onto and remembering a time she knows to be in the past: “I’m coming home/and maybe you’re still the one,” she hums. Her fond remembrance is quickly replaced with a strength that remains the foundation for every verse, and her valor reaches its final breaking point as soon as the chorus hits. “Alright, I cave/it’s not what it used to be,” she sings, a final concession that rings true for anyone who’s held out hope for something that’s clearly failed. Admitting an ending takes far more strength than continuing in willful ignorance, and Åborg’s calmly steadfast vocals exemplify that same resolve throughout the entire track.
The emotion behind Åborg’s voice secretly yearns for past times, but her words say that which others struggle to discover. With her voice swelling and plummeting as she mourns her personal history—“It all collapsed/came crashing down”—she uses the full power of her restricted vocal range within “I Cave” to bring forth the intensity of the finale. The limited instrumentation and vocals channel the inviting and personal warmth of all love songs before this track, with no discredit to the power behind them.
Now is the peak of the era for completely baring yourself for all to see—ask Phil Elverum or Adrianne Lenker—so “I Cave” is a logical progression in Åborg’s musical timeline. Her 2016 single “Too Close” carries far more romantic faith and pep, with guitars that sound more at home in a sunny field of flowers than in the lonely-apartment-on-a-rainy-day environment of “I Cave.” Though the love at the heart of “I Cave” is now looked at in retrospect, the track is nevertheless a love song, perhaps even more so than art that demands a “new beginning” from an ending. All beginnings are paired with an end, and “I Cave” shows what is too often overlooked—the significance of the times between in the face of resolution.