Films on Song Leave Room for Imagination in “Gnome”

“Gnome” is a song about killer gnomes. What I like about it, and about the work of Charlottesville band Films on Song generally, is its emotional realism. Songwriters Jonathan Teeter and Francis McKee collage stock images from science fiction with snippets of everyday speech, making stories set in someone else’s dream of your hometown. I […]

The Refuge and Rush of Imani Graham’s “Just Stay for Once”

Imani Graham’s “Just Stay For Once” is urgent and comforting at the same time. The lyrics are direct: they ask for what they want. Tender yet demanding, they refuse to permit any evasion. They’re loving, but fed up with the beloved’s wishy-washy nonsense. The rhythm drives, lead-footed, and does not let up on the gas. […]

The Arcadian Wild Wraps a Story Around Your Shoulders

“Shoulders” by The Arcadian Wild begins with Lincoln Mick telling us a story. We took off in my plane. Most of what I have to say about this song is praise for how well-built its story is, so you had better listen to it before I give it away: In the first verse, rhyme unites […]

The New Pornographers present “Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies”

I rely on The New Pornographers for peculiar and beautiful songs, messages I can never decode but somehow understand anyway. “Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies,” from their ninth album, Continue as a Guest, is a mosaic. A. C. Newman’s lyrics give us fragments of activity, fragments of landscape, occasional fragments of commentary (“beautiful, I guess.”) It […]

The Moving Stills Find Delight on the “Westside”

Why did the Moving Stills call this song “Westside”? Not just because they’re touring (though, yes: at the time of this typing, the Australian band is wrapping up its “Westside” tour.) Titles are a kind of signpost: they can tell you where to focus in a song. “Westside” points to the geography of “distant love.” […]

Bernie and Kaycie Satterfield want you to “Stay”

Bernie (Sarah Bernstein) and Kaycie Satterfield’s recent collaboration, “Stay,” alternates between creating moments of timelessness and evoking the march of days. Appropriately, it’s a love song. Somewhat unusually, it’s a love song focused on ordinary times. The lyrics contrast love’s way of measuring time with standard measurements. The singer observes “People on the corner selling […]

The Questions of Seba Safe’s “I Wonder”

The title of Seba Safe’s “I Wonder” doesn’t promise any answers. And indeed the song begins with questions: “What the hell is wrong with people? / What the hell is wrong with me?” Good questions; I wonder about that too. But instead of answers, the rest of verse one gives instructions: “Twist the hurt into […]

Jake Minch’s “handgun” and the Question of Growing Up

Jake Minch has a young adult voice: newly strong, brave enough to let its softness show. You can hear the little kiss he gives to the word “you.” His speaker in “handgun” narrates with that same combination of strength and tenderness: strong enough to carry some heavy questions, tender enough to sing about love. This […]

The Moving Stills are “Better”

“Better” by The Moving Stills makes poetry out of everyday conversation. It’s not until the last line that they sing, “I can’t wait to tell my friends” but the whole song feels like an excited announcement. Big news! “It’s developing, she’s so sweet,” and my favorite, “She’s in Melbourne but she’ll be back next week.” […]

Shana Cleveland’s “Walking Through Morning Dew” Buzzes with Love

Anyone who has spent time with beetles knows that weird things can have a deep and fascinating beauty. Shana Cleveland’s “Walking Through Morning Dew” is weird in that way. One may wonder, “What is that, and why is it buzzing?” Or one may just sit tight in incredulous delight. Cleveland populates the song with sounds […]

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