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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Subway Thoughts

Just waited for 20 minutes on an A-train at Broadway-Nassau. The train sat there, more and more people squeezing on, the subway doors continuously beginning to close and then snapping back suddenly. It wasn't exactly rhythmic, but it had a certain obscene quality to it, like a turtle head nervously poking out - or the colloquial bathroom analogy that refers to this.
This is not the first time I've thought of routine subway experiences in terms of bowel metaphors. The experience of a flood of commuters spilling out of a freshly-opened pair of subway doors has always reminded me of an exhaustively liberating bowel movement. The train feels lighter. You have an indistinct feeling of freedom, as if the train would never fill up to same degree it just was.
I'm listening to a British singer called Bat For Lashes. Her new album, titled Fur & Gold, is getting very good reviews. What caught my eye was the routine comparison of her to Kate Bush, someone with whose music I have a near-unhealthy obsession.
Her music is really interesting - vocally she is similar to Kate Bush and Bjork, but steers clear of absorbing the influence in a way that manifests itself to obviously. Like Kate, and a growing number of British female singers such as Lily Allen, she proudly sings in her native accent, but displays a vocal versatility so that she doesn't rely on this as schtick.
Stylistically, the music is very diverse. It delves into styles as varied as Petula Clark-ish 60s britpop in What's a Girl to Do?, to industrial in Trophy, and into creepy downtempo surf rock in Sarah that seems right out of Blue Velvet. Oh yeah, and there is a bunch of harpsichord, like a lot.
What separates her the most from those esteemed musicians with whom she is often compared is her lyrics. Let me put it this way: I enjoy the music best when I don't think about the lyrics. I mean, they're not Ashley Simpson-bad, but they seem at worst the type you would see scrawled in a angst-oppressed middle-schooler's journal and at best from the lyrics sheet of a middle-ages-obsessed 70s British progger.
Here's an example of the former, from I Saw a Light:

The light gave me life
Helped me see more clearly
And the children went to sleep
And the car was towed away
And the leaves were rustling
As the night turned to day

And of the latter, from Trophy:

The queens and the court jesters
Clapped, adored
Their hearts swelled to overdrive a
Mercy sword
Mercy this and mercy that
Let justice prevail
But if just want my trophy back
It's not for sale

I'd be lying if I said the lyrics didn't get in the way. Every once in a while I'm like: Damn girl, you're my age! Why do you write lyrics like a 13 year old boy?
My advice would be for her to simplify her lyrics, stop trying to be profound and just focus on what sits well on her tongue, but of course this is coming from a song-writer whose songs usually consist of one sentence.


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