And now for something completely different! I don’t talk much about the music I listen to here, because I’m not at all cool, okay, I still like most of the music I liked when I was a teenager and a lot of that was nineties girl bands. At this advanced, tragically unhip age, the music I like divides into two neat categories: soulful queerish lady music (Vienna Teng; Dessa; Deb Talan; Dar Wiliams; Kris Delmhorst) and soulful, soft Americana: the Horrible Crowes; the Gaslight Anthem; the Oh Hellos; the Civil Wars… etc).
The Local Strangers are in the second category, an American two-piece a friend introduced me to last year when I was in Seattle for a con. Last weekend, I listened to their new track, “Gasoline“, about fifty times in two days, and I’ve spent the rest of the week listening to their new album, Take What You Can Carry, and… what to say, when you have no vocabulary for this sort of thing? Other people can talk about all the things I can’t articulate, the sweetness in the vocals, maybe, and the cutting simplicity of the instrumentals, maybe also; I like “Gasoline” because it seems to have so many layers, down and down, and the lyrics are deceptively simple, and more than that I can’t tell you.
Off the rest of the album, I particularly like “Red Dress”, which reminds me of Kim Addonizio, and “1947”, which is intimate, and again more a poem than anything else; and then there’s my hands-down favourite, which is “Pilot Light”, a love-song lullaby with simple, soaring lyrics (I will be your pilot light / I’ll burn for you through the night), that fall away into lamenting, wordless harmonies. And see above re: super uncool, okay, but I have never grown out of being seventeen in musical terms; I have never not listened to the same song over and over twenty, fifty, a hundred times, and over years, because it’s something you carry with you; when I was seventeen I still lived up on the Sefton coast and we used to hang out and drink on the pier head, watching the lights on the docks, the lights shining on the water, yearning for something. (Do people love music differently, people who don’t grow up in crappy seaside towns? Who even knows.) Anyway, that’s it, that’s the thing I’m reminded of: because I went to dinner with an old friend on Friday and we talked for a while about it, about how London isn’t easy – high rents and commuting, middle-class British woes par excellence – but we left the town we grew up in and I still listen to the same song over and over, still capable of being transported. It’s a lovely, varied, sweet album, and if I’d listened to it aged seventeen I would have come to it all in inarticulate emotion. And though I didn’t and haven’t, in its multiple sweetnesses, its simplicity, there’s still all that there: still all that falling into wordlessness, on the edge of something. I wish I had the wits to write about music: to write more than, it spoke to me, perhaps it will speak to you, but there you are. Take What You Can Carry is coming out on March 3rd, and my press copy was provided by Matt Hart of the Local Strangers – thank you.