Friday, September 05, 2014

a tub is overflowing upstairs

Are there more than two ways to talk about music? There’s the technical - talking about keys and fifths and timbre or whatever. And there’s metaphor. The jargon of the technical quickly loses me. I have no way to conjure the sound in my head. On the other hand, metaphor is fun to read and creates a feeling that I can associate with the music. In neither case do I hear the music. But at least with evocative metaphor I am intrigued and more inclined to seek the music out.

The critic who writes about pop and rock for The New Yorker is Sasha Frere-Jones. I recently read a feature of his about the band Grizzly Bear. Let’s look at his metaphors:

“The songs on [the album] ‘Yellow House’ … seem to glow from within, as though the electricity had gone out and the house were lit only by candles.”

Frere-Jones likens the playing of a particular chord in one song to “a car coughing to life, or someone rising to his feet reluctantly.”

When later in that song “the backing vocals” come in, they “are bleeding in from above, like the tub upstairs overflowing.”

Grizzly Bear’s more recent album, “Veckatimest,” Sasha-Jones calls “a sprawling water park, sending you through different sluices and dropping you from pools down into slides that give onto small lakes.”

One of the songs on that album is “a big fat ice-cream cone.”

Another “manages to sink fully into its own honey without disappearing.”

The concluding song of “Veckatimest” shows us that, “The fog has lifted and now we can see an entire city, not just a house.”

If you’re curious, the metaphor about the tub overflowing refers to the song “Knife”:

source: The New Yorker, May 11, 2009

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