Track by Track is a recurring feature series in which artists share the story behind every song on their latest release. Today, Pearla breaks down her new album, Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming.
Brooklyn-based artist Pearla (born Nicole Rodriguez) has released her debut album, Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming today, February 10th, via Spacebomb Records. Her transcendent storytelling weaves together an indie-folk record that finds strength in its vulnerability.
The mystical album title refers to the layers of a symbolic onion. “I think what I mean is, there are endless layers to everything, and you don’t have to get to the bottom of it all before you find peace and rest your head at night,” Rodriguez tells Consequence. “You can live with the questions and the uncertainty. It’s also a reminder that all of this is temporary.”
Like the hypothetical onion in the title, we are meant to live within the album’s intricate layers rather than peel them back. The dreamlike instrumentals and expressive vocals immerse the audience in a fantasy painted with wonder and sorrow, and she seamlessly guides listeners through dense crescendos transitioning into sparse acoustic moments with masterful restraint. “All the lights are left on and I’m trying to receive you but I’m only beautiful when I’m alone,” sings Rodriguez in “With.”
Pearla effortlessly builds off the sound she established on her 2019 EP, Quilting and Other Activities. She embodies the eloquent narrative stylings of artists like Adrienne Lenker and Joni Mitchell while also drawing inspiration from writers Virginia Woolf and Mary Oliver.
After the release of the album, Pearla will be playing a hometown show at Public Records in Brooklyn on February 25th, which will be followed by a performance at this year’s SXSW festival.
Listen to Oh Glistening Onion and read Pearla’s Track by Track breakdown of the album below.
This song is about feeling out of control. I actually did get my credit stolen at a flower shop because I was so distracted watching this mourning dove. I thought it was funny how the moment I let myself get swept away in something beautiful, there was immediately a consequence. The song is about wanting to protect yourself from the world and feelings, thinking that is what would make you “strong.” I think at the time I really wanted to be unaffected by everything and everyone, but I was starting to lose this shell that I had around myself and realizing that it’s okay to be sensitive, too. We made up on tour [the phrase] “if you’re gonna be connected, you’re gonna be affected!” It means you can’t have real connection without a little bit of risk there, too.
“Ming the Clam”:
This song is about falling in love and surrendering to the mystery of it all! Ming the clam was the oldest living creature on Earth, who lived to be 507 years old and was killed in research. I heard about this story during a time when I was letting myself become really vulnerable with someone else. It resonated with me because it felt like a little lesson in letting something remarkable exist without trying to tear it apart or figure it out too much. Sometimes you just have to let the mystery and the uncertainty exist within the good thing! A fun fact about the song is that a Cheerio box is used as a shaker in it! I used to eat so many Cheerios because I thought they would make me not throw up. (I’m an emetophobe!)
Every time I try to talk about this song, my words get in a twist. It’s really just about depression. Feeling stuck, but still trying. I can tell you this: When Trey Pollard was arranging strings for this record, I told him I didn’t want them on “Effort.” And then he did it anyway, and I was actually blown away. Now, it’s such a huge part of the song and I can’t imagine it without them.
“The Place with No Weather”:
This song is about wanting to exist in another form other than a human… wanting to be free from earthly limitations, and feeling like that could help you to be a more “true” version of yourself. I actually wrote it after I watched Interstellar for the first time and I was thinking about all of the planets that could possibly exist in the universe.
The “you stole my universe” line started as a joke in this really angsty song I was writing about someone who made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Lol. But the more I sang it over and over again, the more I felt it in my core: that feeling when someone else just makes you lose sight of yourself, and feel so small that you’ve forgotten what you used to believe in and be. In my house, it’s sort of a phrase we throw around here and there now, like, “How was your night?” “Eh, it was ok. [Insert name here] kind of stole my universe tonight.” Ha.
“About Hunger, About Love”:
I teach at a preschool, and one day we were talking about woodpeckers and how they know what to do to get their bugs. I started to think about how all living things have a way of knowing and moving toward what they need, but I’m always a little bit confused about what I should be doing. The new kind of lonesome, I think it’s a loneliness from yourself, a feeling of distance from your true nature. A poem to go along with this song is “Clam” by Mary Oliver. I found it years after I wrote this song, but it feels like it’s about the same thing.
“With” is about that other side of loneliness. The beauty of solitude and this magic that I feel like I can access when I am totally alone. Just me with the sky or me with the sea! I always felt like I had to be alone to be my true self (because people kept stealing my universe). But sharing this song, and the video that I made alongside it, really helped me work through those feelings. In the video, I tried to capture the feelings I have, and who I am when I’m alone. Putting that out there and into the world, and surviving it, made me much more comfortable being myself with people in real life.
I feel so connected to the water. When I stare at large bodies of water, I always feel like a piece of me was returned. I love to watch the waves crash and count them and feel their rhythm. I wrote this song when I was feeling really down, like there was a lack of meaning in my life. My friend told me to watch Joe Pera Talks with You [in order to] remember the meaning again. He was right! I did. Lol. The song is just about being reminded that there are things in the world, in places that you don’t really expect, like Joe Pera or the ocean, that can be healing and make life feel worth living again. And you don’t have to hold on too tightly to them. Just let them come and go like waves!
“Funny in Dreams”:
This song is just a total stream-of-consciousness dream recall. Lol. I play with a lot of stream-of-consciousness stuff on this album, but I would say this song is the most straightforward example of that. I had a lot of fun writing this dream exactly as it occurred and not going back to edit at all. It was also a fun one to record — very much an experiment lyrically and sonically.
Everyone says that when you die in a dream, you will always wake up before you actually die. But I had a dream once about a spaceship that crashed into the city and I remember it so vividly: the fear, the feeling of hot air on my face, the pain, and then for a few seconds, the light, floatiness of death. It was a really memorable and freaky dream.
One of my old friends had just passed away, and I was finding it really impossible to grasp. I thought about when I saw Mt. Everest in person and how I also felt kind of numb there. I think there are things in this world that are just too big for our brains to process. So there is a lot of mystery to being alive, and it can cause a lot of anxiety and denial. But it also makes things really strange and beautiful. That’s what I tried to capture with this song.
This song is about something I call “magical friendships,” which is when you meet someone and it feels like you’ve known them for a million years and you get to watch little miracles unfold when you read each other’s minds and share dreams and help each other grow. And feeling grateful for being there on the planet at the same time. We recorded this on a Zoom in the kitchen on my birthday! When this album comes out it’s actually also my birthday!
“The Glistening Onion”:
This song is about resisting closeness and intimacy because of the uncertainty it contains, and the possibility of it all to end. It’s also about the idea of who you are shifting based on the environment or the people around you.
At the end of the song, I’m sort of trying to let go and give into the tides a bit. The title line is in here: “Oh glistening onion, the nighttime is coming.” The visual of an onion is so beautiful and comforting to me. I always really just liked the sound of these words together, but I think what I mean is, there are endless layers to everything, and you don’t have to get to the bottom of it all before you find peace and rest your head at night. You can live with the questions and the uncertainty. It’s also a reminder that all of this is temporary.
“The Mysterious Bubble of the Turkey Swamp”:
I hold this song so close to my heart. I guess I was just thinking about how fleeting everything is, and how fleeting our lives are. Someone I was really close to passed away and the last time I saw her, we were going to celebrate a new birth. And I was thinking about when people leave the planet, it leaves a little space, and everything shifts. And then it all shifts again when someone’s born, like a Ferris wheel. And what to make of all of it?! I think I write songs to try to catch it all before it’s gone.