By Christopher Treacy
I spend so much time thinking about song lyrics that I sometimes forget to pay more attention to the delivery system. Rhythm is the secret weapon here, dictating the way a song comes on. Is it unrelenting and tight, creating a sense of urgency? Does it swing, loosely serving up a groove? Does it ebb and flow, underscoring parts of the lyric in an almost sermonic way? When an artist alters a song’s rhythm, it shifts the way the song approaches us and changes our perception of its emotional intent. This is a really powerful tool.
Amythyst Kiah’s cover of Tori Amos’s “Sugar”—a fan fave from Amos’s rich trove of B-sides—makes a slight alternation to the rhythmic character of the original that transforms the song into something simultaneously more poppy and urgent. The comparatively plodding nature of this week’s tunes by Julie Title and Doll Spirit Vessel allow the cadence of the vocal more control over the song’s emotional conveyance… the focus falls on slight turns of phrase. Three at Home’s “Shatter Me” takes a gospel route, allowing certain lines to penetrate more deeply, similarly to the way a preacher might build to a conceptual crescendo.
All effective tools—all just different ways of putting a message across.
Exclusive Premiere & Song of The Week:
Three at Home – “Shatter Me”
Boston-area duo Three at Home return this week with a stunner penned solely by Mary Casiello, a CQ Exclusive Premiere you can only hear here. Hear, Hear!
A gospel-inflected tune written at the intersection of accepting limitations and changing what you can (Serenity Prayer, anyone?), it’s also an ode to surviving abuse and learning how not to perpetuate the negative patterns it can inspire. While that all sounds very strategic and self-help-y, “Shatter Me” is definitely rife with passion and sincerity, enough so that we’ve made it our new Song of The Week.
Normally a much more audible part of the duo’s sound, Dann Russo takes a backseat here, adding harmony vocals that complement Casiello’s performance while allowing her to shine bright in the spotlight. We’re helping him beam that light on her with a Q&A tomorrow about the impetus for writing “Shatter Me” and the imagery that informs the song. Stay tuned!
Julie Title – “Gloria”
A synthesis of 70s and 90s influences inform Title’s latest single off her just-released album, After the Sun. “Gloria, you don’t want me/But you call me on the phone,” she begins as a low-slung guitar string swoops in—a yo-yo. Gravity. Sinking. “I’m in love with the feeling of falling apart/I’m in love with the limits of my bleeding heart,” she croons with a tone of incredulous wonder, throwing her arms up in despair as the track plods along, slowly but steadily. It’s a tale of addiction, really… becoming addicted to an illusion.
We’ve all had that experience of being available for someone that only connects when it’s convenient for them. It can be hard to break that pattern. When it validates our feelings, even just momentarily, it becomes even harder to walk away. “Gloria” exists in this emotionally murky terrain, and Title does an excellent job of creating musical space for it.
Amythyst Kiah – “Sugar”
From her new Pensive Pop covers EP, Kiah takes Tori Amos’s lusty b-side “Sugar” in a new wave-y direction, infusing it with her soulful vocals along the way… and it really cooks. Amos’s original retains a more tribal feel, but Kiah goes in for a sturdier beat that moves the song along with a bit more urgency. It’s revelatory.
Doll Spirit Vessel – “What Says”
Formed from the embers of a band called Lost Dog, this PA-based trio—Kati Malison (she/her), Lewis Brown (they/them), and Max Holbrook (he/him)—released their debut just last week and this, the title track, has just enough country seasoning in the mix. There’s quite a bit of genre hopping on the album and DSP might best be described as an indie-pop band with a healthy scope of influences, but we feel this track fits pretty well within the CQ milieu… and Malison’s lilting vocal will stick with you, as she debates “…thinkin’ shapeless thoughts about intimacy.”
Olli Eldrick feat. Fable Martin – “A Letter”
Eldrick, a U.K. artist now based in Canada, is releasing tunes from his forthcoming EP of live takes entitled Old College Try. “A Letter” aches rather distinctively—it’s a combination of the weary pacing and the track’s open space that creates the gravity. Of course, the narrative figures in. A folk song with just a hint of waltzing, western swing, Eldrick successfully creates a mood of defeat. But especially with singing partner Fable Martin alternating verses, the results are undeniably gorgeous. Get out your handkerchiefs.
Mariel Buckley – “Neon Blue”
The self-professed ‘Queen of the One Star Loop’ is missing someone. “No matter how much I drink in here, it never seems to get me drunk,” she quips before abruptly pulling away from her table in this brand spankin’ new video for a key track on Everywhere I Used To Be, out last week on Birthday Cake Records.
Buckley stares directly into the camera to deliver all but one of the lines from this song, and the impact is weighty. Have you ever felt lonely in a crowd? Even the most welcoming, familiar haunts can seem foreign and empty when you’re in a heartbroken headspace. You can practically smell the beer fust coming off the walls and tables in this clip where nothing feels the same despite the comforting neon blue hue.
The Feelings Parade – “St. Judy’s Comet”
The final advance release in the run-up to the duo’s debut, Let it Move You, is a respectfully rendered take on a modern lullaby. A sweet, loving Paul Simon cover of a song from 1973’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, The Feelings Parade skillfully handles Simon’s trademark jazzy changes, letting the playful character of the original come through loud and clear. Let it Move You arrives this Friday, 8/19.
Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He lives in Waitsfield, VT.