Written by Gabe Fine
Single of the Week: “Left Handed Kisses” (feat. Fiona Apple) by Andrew Bird
This gem from Andrew Bird’s upcoming album Are You Serious magnificently combines Bird’s wide-ranging musical talents with Fiona Apple’s emphatic voice. The quasi-love song, which takes the form of a duet, centers on Bird’s apparent inability to write normal love songs: “The point your song here misses/ is that if you really loved me/ you’d risk more than a few fifty cent/ words in your backhanded love songs,” Apple rasps in the chorus. It is true that the song is anything but a traditional love song, whether it is because it is filled with literary touches like “the great Sargasso sea,” or because it never really gets to the “common refrain like this one here” that Bird keeps hinting at.
Yet, because the song is so lyrically focused, it ends up as an emotionally charged tour-de-force. Released alongside the single is a music video directed by Phil Andeman that perfectly captures the romantic tension and energy pent up in the song. The simple video features Bird and Apple (fun last names, I know) in a living room singing to each other. The sweet parts of the song appear as tender moments between Bird and Apple, whereas the bitter parts are full of energy. In one scene, Apple thrashes in her chair and even smashes a bottle in her hands as the song intensifies. The video, like the song, does not resolve in the end, and leaves us wanting more. But because there is no more, all we can do is listen again and again to the powerful harmonies, swooning strings, and resounding bells that make up this song.
Album Review: Moth by Chairlift
Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimbley, who make up the Brooklyn electronic duo Chairlift, have moved away from the sweet synthpop that first put them on the radar with their 2008 song “Bruises” and 2012 album Something. Instead, their latest album Moth is both darker and dancier. Songs like “Romeo” manage to be dissonant while remaining catchy, and songs like the opener, “Look Up,” might serve as excellent trance-inducers.
Chairlift is clearly pushing their musical boundaries on Moth. Polachek’s wide-ranging voice is at once tender on songs like “Crying in Public” and haunting on others like “No Such Thing as Illusion.” The duo’s pursuit of sonically unique melodies and syncopated rhythms is generally successful, as on the infectiously catchy “Ch-Ching,” a dance groove that provides clear evidence as to how they managed to get a gig writing for Beyoncé (2013’s “No Angel”). However, at times, the strange musical choices end up taking away from the album’s accessibility, as on “Polymorphing,” a catchy song with obvious funk influences. Although the song is danceable, its melody does not invite a sing-along as much as obvious hits like “Moth to the Flame.” Other songs, like “Ottawa to Osaka,” seem to crescendo but never quite reach a climax, and instead come off sounding slightly boring.
For listeners expecting synthpop of the sort that put artists like Lorde, Chvrches, and others on the radar, you may be disappointed. But if you want to get your groove on to some songs that are only separated from Top 40 dance hits by Chairlift’s clear musical talent and ambition, than this album is worth listening to. And who knows, maybe the Kate Bush-like darkness that surfaces throughout will grow on you.
Must Listen: “Ch-Ching,” “Moth to the Flame”
Skip: “Ottawa to Osaka”