“So much love, so much love.” That’s how Calista Kazuko’s song of the same name starts, and on paper it seems straightforward enough. But what really caught my ear was the two different ways she sings the word “love” in those two lines. The first “love” is an airy, dreamy, melodious high note, the kind you’ll hear in just about any dream pop song. The second one, however, hits the kind of blue, jazzy, almost sour note that makes your shoulders flinch up to your ears in the best way possible. I’m reminded of the part a little over six minutes into Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” where the song’s most toe-curlingly funky bit was the result of Hancock forgetting to realign the pitch shifter on his synthesizer. It feels imperfect in a perfect way.
Which isn’t to say that “So Much Love” is a ramshackle, splatter-shot kind of song; quite the opposite, in fact. Kazuko rides a patient, graceful groove, with steadily pulsing drums and a hotel-lounge piano as elegant and cool as a French 95. Her vocals are elastic and playful, not unlike Regina Spektor’s, but there’s a slight remove to them, a coy unknowableness, that’s quite intriguing. It sounds like she’s singing to you while shrouded in pink mist, or perhaps with her lips refracted through a glass of champagne, and yet she’s undeniably present, clearly rooted in this love song’s intimate moment. It’s precise, beautiful work.
Ironically for a song that sounds this lucid, Kazuto recorded her vocals while under the influence – not of drugs or alcohol, but a hormone. Heavily pregnant at the time, Kazuto recorded the song while loaded up on oxytocin, which is used to facilitate labor. It surprised me when I first read about it, but upon re-listening to the song it makes a bit of sense. This is a love song, less explicitly about motherhood than her previous song, “Panda,” but it’s still about the beauty of creation: something going from abstract to tangible, an idea to reality, an act of love leading to a new life. “We were words, we were ink on paper,” Kazuko murmurs towards the start of the song – but now, to quote one of her musical heroes, she’s stepping out of the page into the sensual world.