Thursday, April 20, 2017

Two songs: Jay Som "The Bus Song" and Big Thief "Mythological Beauty"

I've been listening to two female-fronted indie songs on repeat lately: Jay Som's "The Bus Song" and Big Thief's "Mythological Beauty."  Here are a few words about them:

Jay Som's track is light and buoyant, building quickly from a single guitar and whispery vocals into an immersive pop song. During that buildup, Som describes someone's aversion to the bus, and then, suddenly, Som and a bunch of otherwise silent singers confidently exclaim, "but I like the bus!"  Even though this exclamation accounts for, like, a second of the song, I love it (and can't get it out of my head). It's such a triumphant assertion, breaking from the song's otherwise contained sound. Plus, it reminds me of The Replacements's "Kiss Me on the Bus," which is never a bad thing.

Comparatively, Big Thief's song is more subdued. I was drawn to it when I saw the album art, an infant held by a boy with an expression of fear and resentment. It's a fitting picture for a song partially about teenage pregnancy and giving away one's unborn child. Despite these layers of sadness, though, the song is hardly bleak; its rhythmic guitar and steadily tapping drum maintain its spirited pace, and its chorus--well, its chorus is too majestic to be bogged down by sadness.  There, each sound is given space to breathe; listening to the chorus with headphones is like the sonic equivalent of gazing at twinkling songs--sounds flicker in and out, and you're there to absorb the beauty. This beauty comes from the lyrics, too: the singer repeats,  "You're all caught up inside / But you know the way," lines that nicely capture the song's delicate teetering between melancholy and optimism. 

I also appreciate how the song so gracefully ebbs and flows. At one point, the singer's voice bleeds into a swelling, screechy guitar when she describes her mother "soaking up blood with your eyes" after a freak accident. Shortly thereafter, the song comes to a near halt, with just a gentle guitar and soft vocals. I think the song doesn't sound disjointed because the lyrics are so well-written; even though the narrative moves across time and between characters, the song's portraits are lucid and engaging, so when the tone of the lyrics changes, it sounds natural--logical, even--that the instrumentals follow along. In other words, the song earns its payoffs, both quiet and loud.

I really like these songs, is what I mean. Especially this cutting, jaw-dropper of a line, which kills me every time: "there is a child inside you who's trying to raise a child in me." 

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