Sad folk singer-songwriter The Last Optimist, aka Markus Belanger, recently dropped his new EP, this moment is gone, which addresses mental health.
The Last Optimist explains, “We are in a tough moment as more than a quarter of us are facing off with extreme sadness, anxiousness, panic, and all the accompanying struggles that throw us into cold dark water and crash waves overhead. I perform this music to lift people up, to let them know that they are not alone, and to build empathic allies all around. Every little moment of peace helps. Every little connection makes us more resilient. Every kind word is sunshine on a cheek. Sometimes we rage, sometimes we cry quiet and vulnerable, sometimes we stand bold and courageous, sometimes we love with abandon. Come join us and immerse yourself in both the inky black water and light that comes with the dawn.”
Musician, artist, social activist, and entrepreneur, Markus’ mission is to help people who are struggling with their behavioral health. In his ‘day job’ he runs his own business that helps state governments reform behavioral health delivery systems, and he helps Community Mental Health Centers and Hospitals to perform the critical care roles that they provide in their communities. In his ‘night job’ Markus is on a mission to de-stigmatize mental health, build community, and pull behavioral health out of the darkness and into the light.
In high school, Markus played trombone with The Four Tops and Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons, followed by backing Clark Terry on his European and Caribbean Island tours. He played bass and toured with Stricken For Catherine, releasing two albums. Then he played drums with In Search of a Redheaded Fiddler, opening for Sam Bush at the Northern Rocky Mountain Folk Festival.
Markus launched his new venture with The Last Optimist in 2021, recording two stripped-down albums.
Encompassing six tracks, highlights on the EP include “let go of this breath,” opening on a tender, glittering acoustic guitar topped by Markus’ evocative voice. The harmonic flow shifts with the entry of a dark rhythmic component, taking on the desperate colors of a panic attack.
Talking about the track, Markus says, “My goal with ‘let go of this breath’ is to build empathetic allies for the millions of people who struggle to stay afloat with their mental health each day. The song begins with the flirtation of a new relationship, which is interrupted by a panic attack, and which turns into a courageous struggle that finally resolves with peaceful resilience. Listener beware, this song evokes the whole ride.”
A personal favorite because of its alluring textures, “boy in a well,” tells the tale of a boy trapped in a well as conveyed by Markus’ redolent voice. “she got carried away” rides a funk-lite rhythm as bluesy country hints travel overhead. Tight and clipped, Markus’ inflected tones give the lyrics melancholy flavors.
Crowned by Markus’ brogue, on this moment is gone, The Last Optimist offers luscious, low-slung sonic washes of affecting folk music.