All this so very nearly never happened.

For some reason, The National Lights largely seemed to pass the world by in 2007. Whether some rather reductive, thoughtless reviews were to blame, disharmony within the young band itself, or something altogether more intangible was to blame, we may never fully know, but The Dead Will Walk, Dear partly missed its moment.

Partly, I’ll have to insist on saying, as those who did find the homegrown album latched onto it with as much determination as its critics insisted on doing it disservice. It’s not entirely surprising: it's a folk record with playing and harmonies as gorgeous as the very best the genre has to offer (yes, really, see ‘Swimming in the Swamp’) masking a dark, rotting underbelly of murder and, well, zombies. Suffice to say, it was a bizarre record at first glance, all too easy to write off as a cruel curiosity for the lazy onlooker.

To the contrary, for those that spent time with it, The Dead Will Walk, Dear proved an endlessly giving, soul-searching, and deeply sad piece of music. I would be lying if I claimed to consider it anything less than one of the definitively personal albums of my lifetime, and over time, with the help of the good ol’ Internet, I’ve encountered a small legion of fans who feel the same.

Yet, for the longest time, it seemed this desperately under-recognized debut would serve as The National Lights’ soul statement. The band’s website persisted, with a nagging promise of a follow up: Whom the Sea Will Keep, a seafaring record of love and loss. Years of this muted hope went by, visiting the site occasionally, in hopes of some sort of update. It was, it seemed, never to be.

Then 2019 arrived. Entirely unexpected, word of the band’s reforming, and the abandoned LP being re-envisioned as an EP reached my inbox. 'Could this really be?', came my first thoughts.

Indeed, it could. Whom the Sea Will Keep is here, and for some of us, that means the world. For rather more of us, I imagine, this means you have a new curiosity to investigate.

With the three members of the band having gone their separate ways, all across the country, not necessarily have ended their partnership on the best terms, the prospect of truly reuniting, at least on record, was an exciting one. Familiar to finally returning to home. While the band still haven’t met again in the flesh in a decade, they began, tentatively, to send ideas back and forth.

Gradually, this EP formed. The songs themselves had been written for years, ringleader and primary songwriter Jacob Berns having nestled the kernels of these songs all the while. As Chris Kiehne and Sonya Cotton rejoined the fold, offering their music and harmonies, respectively, it all came together.

Dubbed "sea shanties" by the band members themselves, the songs find inspiration in genuine maritime history, weaving tales of woe and choices without happy answers. Whether the sailor chooses the call of the sea or the love of his life, he'll long for that which he surrendered. It's a tale both intimately specific and universally relatable. We've all been there, one way or another, and in that, these songs speak to each and every one of us.

For new fans, Whom the Sea Will Keep will doubtlessly feel a welcome invitation to the National Light’s stark, often tragic folk world. At just sixteen minutes, it's certainly gracious with your time. For returning, long term allies, it can’t help but feel a bit of a tease: like the band taking a first breath after so long away, rather than a full length statement. Still, for as long as we’ve waited, brief or no, anything at all - let alone a project so lovingly curated and fully realized - feels a true blessing. It's not hard to feel the time spent away in these lived in, wistful moments. These are songs of deep longing.