Sunday, August 20, 2006



Rock n' roll's about the strong emotions: love and lust and anger and heartbreak and euphoria manifesting themselves as rebellion, sex, dancing, drinking, suicide attempts, fistfights, breaking windows ... well, you know the rest. So what do you call and what do you do with songs that are about ambiguous, emotional halfway houses--states described, famously, by Lou Reed as "alright," by others as "okay" or "fine." Not checkpoints of surrender or crossroads at which resigned weariness is finally admitted exactly, but moments of accepting the "right now" for what it is and only discussing the future in vague, indefinite terms. Liminal states? Purgatory? Mental repose?

I Should Be Sleeping - Mazarin

Whatever they are, Mazarin seems to be making a career of articulating these acceptable moods. It does this through a dynamic wall of sound--Quentin Stoltzfus' gentle, anesthetic voice and spectral bell and chime effects jostling up against intense drum rolls and buzzsawing electric or fast-strummed acoustic guitars--and cryptic, subconscious-trawling lyrics. On its most recent record We're Already There (my second favorite album of 2005), "I'm With You And Constellations" is a Ride-reminiscent churner that arrives at the profound realization (and it is profound), "I'm with you and we're okay." "I Should Be Sleeping," from the 2000 record Watch It Happen (eMusic), reaches a similar conclusion. A dreamy affair with bells that seem to bleed from other worlds (or at least the opposite side of the magnetic tape), its pivotal line is "it's all fine that I should be sleeping," as nettlesome calls to action or resolution are put aside for other days.

Target - The Rhombus

San Francisco singer-songwriter Cody Henessy (operating as The Rhombus) describes fuzzy stasis of a post-breakup variety. "Target" uses the hopeless mantra ("You know I'll try to fill my nights, I'll try") to frame trips to Target to buy new towels and to San Jose to rent a bike, then riding it "out of spite." But eventually the protagonist arrives at this kinda clunky, but apt metaphor for acceptance: "It's like swallowing some ice, it's got to melt inside your throat before it goes down." And if the words don't quite communicate the okay state he's reached, the cantering bedroom symphony chorus and cool glass of water that closes the track tells you everything's just fine. Really.

From Margins.


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