Thursday, September 1, 2011
Dark, Cynical and Impossibly Honest
Most exciting things first: I found out Monday that I have been added to the music review team at Relevant Magazine! Hooray! Celebrate with me! As the oboe and I have been fighting a lot recently, I am hoping this ends up being the first step in a new direction.
Okay, let's get down to business (to defeat the Huns).
Remember last week how we talked about the Muppets and their sweet reminder in a world of cynicism, sarcasm and meanness? Well, this week we're diving straight into that cynical, sarcastic mean and rocking world of Elizabeth and the Catapult. I was first introduced to Elizabeth and the Catapult by Relevant, actually, so this fitting. I heard the song "Race You," fell in love with its youthful spirit and energy and decided I needed to buy the album. I won't say I regret purchasing the 2009 album, but that happy tune is certainly the anomaly. The rest of the album is dark and riddled with tongue-and-cheek observations on life. The title track "Taller Children" is actually an idea that continues to strike a deep chord with me, as it talks about the similarities between being a child and being an adult - that we never actually seem to grow up, only taller - but it doesn't take a light-hearted grace-filled approach to this idea. Nevertheless, I like the song and the idea ... I just try to put my own optimistic spin on it. "Momma's Boy" and "Perfectly Perfect" (from the bonus track edition of the album) are uptempo, fun standouts, in spite of their lyrics. "Momma's Boy" laments the plight of many older, single and (perhaps) slightly bitter women saying "if you want a girl to be your mother, go find another one." And "Perfectly Perfect" is a carnival ride through the paradoxes existent in our own lives with its opening line of "I'm just so perfectly perfect, except when I'm not."
The album also has its share of sweet and beautifully arranged songs. "Gold Ink" is one such with wistful lyrics "I have just begun to work my magic, but it seems as though it's lost at sea" and "Just in Time" is a sincere love song whose sound is slow and swimming, creating the feeling of being suspended in a moment of reflection.
"Hit the Wall" is a powerful Adele-esque number. And in general the whole album has a similar feel to Adele - strong and soulful. Although dark, Elizabeth and the Catapult is authentic and completely honest. She/it/they are a great addition to a music library that already contains Adele, A Fine Frenzy, Feist, Florence and the Machine or other strong female singers. The lyrics are strong poetry and the accompanying music is solid and multi-genred. But don't start with Elizabeth. She's a second or third step, rather than a first.
This video is a live performance of one of my most stand-out songs on the album, "Everybody Knows." It is soul and blues at their best. On the album, there's stomping; in the performance it's a kick-drum. The opening is stark with just the beat and the vocals: a perfect compliment to the stark lyrics. "Everybody knows that the war is over. Everybody knows that the good guys lost." It's heavy & effective.