The first thing that struck me when I heard “Layers” was the scrape of a string on Joel Ansett’s acoustic guitar.
There’s a simple honesty to it that I love.
It’s part of the song and impure, and this is a song full of impurities. It’s not out of key, it’s not going against some unbreakable rule from some harmonic theory bible. It’s that in the scrape of the string and in the openness of the lyrics, you can hear everything.
Nothing hidden in the mix, nothing scrubbed away.
The first single off of Ansett’s upcoming album is an inward look at our approach to relationships. The lyrics are simple and on the surface, so is the instrumentation. The backing vocals, similar to Hayley William’s “Inordinary”, give an ethereal quality, but otherwise, it’s the classic formula of person + guitar = song.
The idea of layers as an image isn’t new. Shrek did it.
But like Kate Nash’s “Foundations”, it’s a strong image. It’s simple and that’s what can breed some of the best writing.
It’s also worth looking at the complications hidden within this simplicity.
“I wish I would learn how to say what I mean.”
Does this cast doubt on the whole narrative? Is he even saying what he means there? Perhaps he’s quite happy to not dig deep.
Think Fight Club if you need a comparison.
As you stumble on the many meanings of the purposefully simple lyrics, you’re forgiven for not fully appreciating how this song develops. The central melody and the dynamics of the guitar slowly lift the ambience, as if you were going on one of those flat escalators in IKEA. The ones you can put your trolley on.
By the time the second verse comes around, a low bass note marries up with a near-constant wall of acoustic guitar. The intensity of Ansett’s vocals is cranked up by just the right amount of turns on the dial.
In short, it’s a builder and you might not realize it.
Though not wholly unexpected, each layer adds something new. This is not a song that will leave you speechless, but in the way Ansett opens up about not opening up, there is plenty to speak about.
“You’re a new artist at the end of every project,” says Ansett in a very open Instagram post.
But what about at the end of every decision we make? Do they make us a new person?
“…telling half-truths and half of our dreams…”
Why not go full-hog and share that weird dream you had? What about if you really do say what you mean for once? You might even admit out loud that you don’t get Bob Dylan.
You change every time you decide to tell or not tell someone something. Even if that change is as minimal as an apple’s gravitational pull on the earth. And yes, the apple does pull the earth towards it.
Ansett might not have meant to equate the layers of a relationship with such existential ponderings or gravity, but in his honesty about layers, he’s maybe just created a few more.