Songs are just stories set to music. That is the best way I have found to describe them. They can create images, characters, conflicts, and emotions within you upon plugging those headphones in and pressing play. It’s a type of magic that, within four minutes, can make you feel understood or make you feel sympathetic to a situation you have maybe never experienced before. If songs are stories, then albums are usually collections of 10-14 different ones.
But not all albums are collections. If a song can be a story, so can an album. We call these concept albums – a collection of songs with a single common thread, a common narrative or theme. All of the songs, combined, should tell one concise story or relay one message. The Beatles told the story of a fictional Sgt. Pepper and his troop on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. My Chemical Romance told the story of a fiction Patient and his journey to death. Gracie & The Valley have done just the same; they created a single narrative concept album of their own, Chrysanthemum, set to release on November 16th, 2018. The song “Burdensome” is just one piece of their bigger narrative.
Gracie & The Valley is an indie pop band based in Nashville, TN. Gracie Bates, the namesake of the band and the lead vocalist, was raised in the city. She began music at a young age and was even the lead singer of a band called Flashback from 5th to 8th grade. They mostly covered classic rock tunes with the exception of a few original songs. Flashback partnered with a nonprofit and played shows all around the city at many iconic venues like The Ryman Auditorium and B.B. King’s. After attending the Nashville School of the Arts, she began an independent acoustic act that ultimately grew into her full band just a year ago. Gracie & The Valley enjoys creating diverse songs that, when grouped, still feel like they are meant to be together. She also writes about a variety of subjects to match her eclectic sound. Chrysanthemum is Gracie & The Valley’s first album and is about a couple’s love story from the first meeting to the very end. Though the characters fall in and out of love, images come full circle, meaning something completely different by the end. In the press release for the album, it’s written that “the songs range from sweet and reflective to soulful and dramatic”. The song “Burdensome” falls in the middle of the track list, and in the middle of this romantic journey.
The song opens with an electric guitar similar to the guitar the indie pop band Japanese House often uses. It’s overdubbed, reverby, and poppy, but beachy at the same time. This sound is occurring more often in indie pop music and after further research, the musical sound Gracie & The Valley is using is of the shoegaze/dream pop genre. Shoegaze was a genre popularized in the UK in the 80s that contained “long, droning riffs, waves of distortion, and cascades of feedback”. Dream pop is “an atmospheric subgenre of alternative rock” with “processed, echo-laden guitars and synthesizers”. These two genres are similar and often go hand in hand, especially in “Burdensome”.
Gracie’s smooth but authoritative voice compliments the dream pop guitar in the best way. But when the guitar rhythm picks up and the vocal harmonies ring out in the chorus, some of that dreamy reverb is lost. By the second verse, drums have kicked in and the song is fuller and richer now. In the second chorus, however, this fullness cuts back and Gracie’s vocals take prominence in the story. It’s a sweet stand out moment in the middle of all the music.
But it’s the lyrics that stand out even more.
I don’t want to be a burden,
heavy on your heart,
always needed reassurance,
when I’m falling apart.
She doesn’t want to be a heavy load that her lover has to carry around. She doesn’t want to weigh him down or be a negative force.
I don’t want to be burdensome,
and only find out once you’ve had enough.
I don’t want to be a burden, love,
so would you tell me please if I’m becoming one?
She doesn’t want to find out she’s been weighing him done after he’s already decided to end the relationship. She wants him to communicate if this is the case, so she can do better and be more positive for him.
Wonder if you’re feeling smothered
every time I come along.
She is curious as to whether or not he feels too encapsulated by her every time they’re together.
I don’t want to be a nuisance,
heavy on your back.
Am I being too translucent
every time that I unpack?
She doesn’t want to annoy him or, once again, weigh him down. She wonders if these insecurities are obvious whenever she unloads her emotions on him through conversation.
I said “where are we going?
I’m afraid that you’ll abandon me.”
In my eyes the fear is showing –
he pulls me in to kiss my grief.
She wants to know their relationship has a future and a direction. She doesn’t want him to let her go because of all her baggage. She knows he can see how afraid she is, but to reassure her, he kisses her. He’s letting her know that he is not going anywhere.
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