Top 10 2006; 9



09.
Band Of Horses
Everything All the Time
Sub Pop
I Go To the Barn Because I Like the

I put Band of Horses into my top ten to prove that I’m a liar. I always tell myself that lyrics make the music, and if they’re no good, then the music fails. But deep down in my heart I know it’s not true. I also know that millions of folks out there place little to no value on the lyrical quality of music. Some even listen to (gasp!) pieces that are completely instrumental. And it would be a shame to give into my first impulse and dismiss “Everything” based simply on Bridwell’s garbledy lyrics.

As justification, I use an article I read at The Red Alert. The interviewer, Adam McKibben, addresses this very point (conveniently):

McKibben: I wanted to get your take on something one reviewer said: basically, he wrote that your lyrics are deliberately impressionistic, that there’s no lyric sheet because the listener isn;t really meant to follow along with the words.

Bridwell: Yeah, that would be correct. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors with the way I try to express things, just to kind of let the listener choose their own kind of adventure. Or let them find different meanings by garbling some words here and there. In the demos, I did a lot more of that, but Phil was pretty insistent on my enunciation. I mean, I knew what I was talking about, but I try to leave a little mystery there.

First of all, Phil, whoever you are: thanks from the bottom of my tiny, ice-encrusted heart. Second, let’s get the mean things out of the way: I think that in part, “leaving the mystery” is a cop-out. The interview also says that “Everything” is Bridwell’s first turn at songwriting, even though this is his second band. I’ve spent a lot of time in textual analysis, and “I knew what I was talking about” is often enough an excuse on the writer’s part in order not to have to explain him or herself. Add in Bridwell’s mushy delivery, and there’s a lot of breakdown between the medium and the message.

But what’s the message anyway? If I take Bridwell at face value, then the smooshiness and the repetetive, blanky lyrics are all deliberate. (For instance: If ever beat down, we know who we are / They know we all want more, from “The Great Salt Lake,” or Count on us all stepping on our own toes tonight from “Our Swords”). And if the message is known only by the singer, then it’s perfectly writerly: listeners are free to impose their own interpretation, or, likelier, to ignore interpretation altogether. This goes completely against my grain. I can barely do it — you see how I just spent three paragraphs talking about lyrics even though Bridwell doesn’t care if I do or not.

Maybe instead of superanalysis, the listener needs to treat “Everything” like a Pissarro or a Morisot — step back, squint a little, and take it in without thinking too hard. Impressionist music, to misuse a term, seems to invite the listener to hear how sound creates ambience. Bridwell’s distinctive voice; the slow, silky harmony on “Saint Augustine”; the bits of phrase that float up to the surface once in awhile; the blippy guitar that leads “Funeral” and then the beat kickstarting what could arguably be my most popular song of 2006 (certainly I listened to it about five million times). This is as close to shoegaze as I ever get, and it’s enjoyable, as long as I step outside my comfort zone and take the disc for what it is, rather than what I wish it were.

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4 comments

  1. Ic the Ka’s avatar

    So, thanks to A I have had the pleasure of hearing half of this album despite being on the muddy bottom of a Caucasian hole in the ground, or at least, something so similar in general appearance that it would difficult to discern between the two. I have to say, I really like it. Now, I’m not quite as lyrically opinionated as yourself, even though it’s still fairly important to me(I obviously don’t care about lyrics that much, seeing as I used to listen to Rancid all the time, and the Misfits), so for me, it’s really that the songs resonate with a really awesome feeling that you don’t get from most music. It’s a warm feeling, like you’ve just found a good friend, a weird friend, sure, even a friend with whom you share no common language, but someone that you are comfortable with all the same. I don’t want to wax too sentimental, but the instant I heard Band of Horses, I was in love with them. Bridwell’s voice is fantastic, unique, but powerful, slightly haunting. A has informed me that the way he sings on the album is exactly how he sounds live, btw. So, yeah, I like it. A lot. The other band to which I have recently been introduced and about which I feel very much the same is Bishop Allen. Although, with Bishop Allen, I am drawn to Pavement comparisons. But that doesn’t bother me.

  2. zara’s avatar

    Yeah, it’s that voice that carries the band. I wonder what its popularity factor would be, if Bridwell had a boring normal voice. A. has been working on you overtime, eh? He has a manly crush on Bridwell.

    Bishop Allen is great stuff, though you can overload on it. I have a metric ton of their stuff, tho.

  3. Icka’s avatar

    Speaking of which, Metric is so good. Oh, and, be jealous, Copenhagen rules.

  4. Leaving Liverpoo’s avatar

    yes! working overtime! i had a twelve hour day yesterday. haha. well, i’m just sort of wrapping things up here at the refugee centre. we just had our third bi-monthly women and children’s rights seminar yesterday. this is project i started with another finnish volunteer. today i had visitors from irex(an educational organzation funded by the us gov) stop by at the centre to co-ordinate our info-technology training. now i’m trying to meet last minute with the unhcr co-ordinator to plan for the donation of office equipment i just negotiated (15 computers! we can open a dedicated computer lab!). its been a blast and tuesday is my last day. can’t wait to get back to the states and finally be able to listen to this music you’ve been raving/complaining about. haha. keep up the good work. ciao! ps. band of horses rocks and i saw them before their album came out. does that give me cred of some sort?

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