Tag Archives: great lyricists

Great Indie Lyricists #3: Emily Haines of Metric

This is song #3 of a playlist for my LYLAS Kat. The subject is great indie lyricists. Each week I’m focusing on the lyrics of one band and why those lyrics are worth delving into.

Hi Kat,

Since you’ve been obsessed with the Mountain Goats lately, we’ve been talking about who some of our favorite modern lyricists are. This playlist was made specifically to answer that question. Today’s band is Metric.

 

It’s no secret that Metric is one of my favorite bands of the decade. One may compare them to chick-fronted rock bands like Blondie or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But Metric wins bonus points in having captivating, socially relevant lyrics. I first got hooked on the mysterious “The Police and the Private” and became fanatic with “Patriarch on A Vespa.” I say it’s socially relevant but it’s more poetry than preaching. She’s writing about the world she sees, and as a socially aware person, this is reflected in her writing.

Take the aforementioned “Police and the Private”. She sings:

Didn’t make this up I learned, I learned it from a friend
My friend is coming clean, she told me
Keep one eye on the door, keep one eye on the bed
Never expect to be sure who you’re working for

It’s clear she’s talking about some black market world. Is it drugs? Prostitution? Does it matter which, or does it matter more that the larger point is that “the whole world wants what we’re on…the police and the private, the doctor, the lawyer, the garbage collector“? The tone is desperate and dangerous. Never once does she ask why something the whole world wants is outlawed, as that would be preaching. I liken it to the Talking Heads song “Life During Wartime,” in that capturing the dangers of the lifestyle is more telling and more interesting than a sermon about the morality of those who choose to live in the underworld. The clincher in “Police and the Private” is the last line, Got to get to you the orphanage is closing in an hour. Such a haunting line. Does the character in the song live this dangerous lifestyle in the hopes of making enough money to get her child back? It’s unclear, merely suggestive that criminals lead desperate lives because there are other more innocent lives at stake.

 

Another example is “Gold, Guns, Girls.” The lyrics All the guns, all the gold, in the world…couldn’t get you off seem to be directed at a certain president and his cabinet that were in power when she released the song in 2009. Did she sit down to write a song about a particular politician, or does her pen naturally gravitate to such subjects because they interest her? Would the song be better if she namechecked Bush or Cheney? No, the song is better because it is about a certain type of person that Cheney happens to be an example of.

Download/Listen to Metric – Gold, Guns, Girls

Full Lyrics to Gold, Guns, Girls

 

The lyrics to Patriarch On A Vespa wouldn’t be out of place in the latest urban literary magazine. I’ll print them in full so you can imagine them not in a rock song but within your favorite poetry anthology.

 

Patriarch On A Vespa

Promiscuous makes an entrance
Her mouth is full of questions
Are we all brides to be?
Are we all designed to be confined?
Buy ourselves chastity belts and lock them
Organize our lives and lose the key
Our faces all resemble dying roses
From trying to fix it
When instead we should break it
We’ve got to break it before it breaks us

Fear of pretty houses and their porches
Fear of biological wristwatches
Fear of comparison shopping
Dogs on leashes behind fences barking
Pretty little pillows on floral couches
Until our faces all resemble dying roses
Stop trying to fix it

Patriarch on a Vespa
Runs a red and ends up
Crushed under the wheel

 

I can imagine this getting high marks at the next Berkeley poetry slam, can’t you? But on the contrary, she sings this while playing the keyboard solo and kicking her legs in the air in total bad-ass fashion. The “it” she refers to I presume to be bullshit suburbia and when she shouts “Stop trying to fix it…we should break it” she has created a couplet not matched in the history of rocking out since The Who first shouted¬† “Meet the new boss! Same as the old boss!” If this song had been popular enough to hit heavy rotation on corporate radio, surely it would have inspired some chair throwing and bra burning.

 

Download/Listen to Patriarch On A Vespa

 

If you want to see some chill-inspiring rockage, check out the thrills she throws down at 1:40. It will give you a sense of why Emily Haines is one of the goddesses of indie rock:

 

Bonus: If this rocks a little hard for you, check out Emily Haines solo career with her backing band The Soft Skeleton. Or if you just can’t get enough, she’s also a sometimes-singer for Broken Social Scene.

Posted via email from Like Dancing About Architecture

Great indie lyricists #2: Los Campesinos!

This is song #2 of a playlist for Kat. The subject is great indie lyricists.

Hi Kat,

Since you've been obsessed with the Mountain Goats lately, we've been talking about who some of our favorite modern lyricists are. This playlist was made specifically to answer that question.

Los Campesinos! We Are All Accelerated Readers

There were conversations about what Breakfast Club character you'd be

"I'd be the one that dies" (no one dies)
"Well then what's the point?"
You should have built have a statue, and so I did of you
And you were ungrateful, and slightly offended at the dimensions of it
You said you looked less like the Venus de Milo, 

and more like your mother in a straightjacket.

I've already shared a few Los Campesinos! songs with you. I really want you to fall in love with this band. For a great lyric I picked "We Are All Accelerated Readers" because I think you'll appreciate the humor in these opening lines. Los Campesinos!'s front man mostly writes about his dismal love life. But like any good writer, those conversations are peppered with his obsessions: twee and the musical culture which surrounds it. There's also frequent pessimistic asides about the future of politics, humanity and, well, everything. It's surprising in such upbeat songs. You hear the high voices, shouting, and hand-clapping over lines like "We kid ourselves there's future in the fucking / but there is no fucking future" or, say, "And your very existence is a monument / To how I taught myself to scream" and realize these aren't exactly pop songs. They're punk for tweeny-boppers. Or twee for punks. Whatever, they're fun. Which makes it easy to dismiss the lyrics. But the lyrics are what make this band so great.

Posted via email from Like Dancing About Architecture

Great indie lyricists #1: Cloud Cult

This is a playlist for Kat. The subject is great indie lyricists.

Cloud Cult – Ghost Inside our House

lyrics

Image via Western Sun

The couple that fronts Cloud Cult released a ton of albums while working through the grief of the death of their young son. But the songs aren’t a diary of torment. There is real pain here, but just as often there is an appreciation for the beauty of life. Cloud Cult’s songs are drowning in duende. There’s so much love in this music. So many beautiful images and ideas.

We’ll start a little family
And call it our religion
Hunt for ghosts inside our house
‘Cause we’ll never give up wishing

Their lyrics give you the sense that life is tender and precious.

It helps that the music is interesting and every song is unique. This one is a slow guitar number but many of their songs feature strange interludes or booming orchestrations or meandering violin. It also helps that they’re amazing live. They’re one of those bands that make it impossible to pick a favorite. I believe you’ll especially like this one, but there are so many other Cloud Cult songs to fall in love with. Do it.