Monday, November 15, 2010

considering the connections

The Lightning Bug Situation - Call

Haunting, reflective, beautiful, introspective, earnest, intimate.

Left to my own devices, it is so tempting to just keep listing adjectives that come to mind while I listen repeatedly to Call, the enigmatic album recently released by The Lightning Bug Situation. Maybe if I conjure up enough words, I can find one that captures the essence of this rare gem. Maybe I can begin to understand how this music can be at once so sensitive and yet so powerful, so personal and yet so universal, so immediate and yet so timeless.

But this is not a task to be undertaken alone. In lieu of a traditional album review, I have collaborated with EverythingisPop, my wonderful friend and fellow music aficionado, resulting in a discussion of our respective perceptions about this album, born of the questions we asked of each other. Such an extraordinary recording deserves unique treatment, after all.

Below is one half of the discussion, my answers to his questions. His half of the discussion, far more insightful than mine, is here. I urge you to click, to be swept away by his insight.
Tell me about the first time you listened to this album
I remember it well, that Sunday morning; it's filed away in my cortex for safe keeping, part of my library of perfect moments that I can retrieve when needed. The CD arrived the day you left here, postmarked Philadelphia, wrapped in a personal note from Brian Miller (aka The Lightning Bug Situation). I knew it was something special, something that required more than a casual listen, so I put it away until the moment was ripe.

There was a fog descended upon the trees that morning, a brush of frost on the roofs, and the street lights were cutting through the gloom that seemed far too deep for 8:30 AM. I sat in that ugly green chair that faces the window, cup of coffee cooling beside me, one small light cutting through the dark, listening. And I was transported. I was quite literally mesmerized by the quiet power of the album. The music affected me so powerfully that I almost afraid to breathe, not wanting to miss a single nuance.

You don't forget transformative moments like that.

Why has this record captivated you to the extent that it has?
This is a record that takes its time. The spaces between the words are as important as the words themselves. You are forced to listen closely in order to absorb the subtlety of this highly reflective and intensely personal work. The deliberate and measured pacing allows the songs to unfurl gradually and almost organically. The songs on Call are not what exactly what I would call building songs, in that they don't build into a large anthemic chorus, rather they start as small seeds that send out tentative tendrils to break through the earth. They are the roar of the dormouse, the howl of the firefly.

Is Call a morning, afternoon or evening record?
It's a Sunday morning, Tuesday afternoon, very late on a Friday evening record. Call is an album for those times of the week when you are at your most pensive, those times when there is a pause amidst the routine, a moment of clarity amongst the flurry, those times when you come face to face with the questions in your life.

What colour is this album?
Grey. This is not a negative, as grey is my favourite colour. But it's also a colour that both absorbs light and reflect it back. Much like this album.

Brian Miller writes from a very personal place. Does it ever feel like you are eavesdropping when listening to his music?
Constantly. The instrumentation itself is very intimate, and coupled with the deceptively simple and introspective lyrics that pepper this album, the whole effect is that of rummaging though Brian Miller's bedroom, breaking the lock on his diary, and reading his most guarded secrets.

The lyrics "deep inside I'm just scared/I want to be a good dad/clear-eyed and true", (Fall) are so intensely personal, so introspective, and yet I think they reflect a universal truth. It's not a truth that is voiced very often in rock 'n roll, and I am not even sure if he is supposed to be confessing these fears, let alone allowing me to hear them. But, somehow, I feel honoured that he is.

What song from Call should be included on every mixtape?
Every mix tape needs a song to shake things up, a song that makes you stop and ask what the hell just happened here? Pull does just that.

It's an unsettling song, rife with social awkwardness, the suggestion of drum machine nonchalance juxtaposed against a backdrop of darkly ominous drums. There's a quiet moment halfway through the song, a restrained pronouncement of "it pulls you in/like a shadow over the earth" that absolutely devastates me with its sense of futility and subdued acceptance of inevitability. By the time the final instrumental kicks in, whales calling out their heartache to one another through the depths, I'm completely shattered.

What song slays you every time?
For Nancy, With a Bruised Heart very much makes me feel as though I am intruding upon a private conversation, one that was not meant for me. Yet in a way, it was meant entirely for me. I mean, who doesn't love boys who make mix tapes?

"And I know you have a hard time sometimes / but the next time you're driving in the sun / through the city and put on a mix tape / that I made for you / I hope that this song comes on / and heals your insides".

Simple heartfelt words, certainly, but so brave and so awkwardly certain. Those words, deceptive in their simplicity, elegant in their intent, reflect the quiet optimism that infuses this lovely album, and leave me hopeful.


Sean Wraight said...

Simply remarkable.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Sean (The Mixtape Boy)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh look, it's a meeting of the mix tape mutual admiration society, Sean!

Thank you for this, bring on more collaborations!

And thank you, Brian Miller.

Toccata said...

So much music, so little time. I'm now listening to one of their songs I found a link to online. His voice and sombre mood remind me of Bonnie Prince Billy's voice on his Master of Everyone CD.

I think I need to perk myself up with the Russian Naval Military Band's rendition of Russian Sailor Dance. I'm listening now. Now that's music!! Absolutely bloody amazing.

Allison said...

I'm not sure if I'm ready to listen yet. Really seems like the type of music you need to be in the mood for. But I've added it to the que!

The the question - "what colour is this album to you?" Very nice!

Allison said...

*Love the question.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Very astute, Toccata, there certainly is a touch of Bonnie Prince Billy in Brian Miller's voice and delivery.
Isn't it great that we can share musical finds like this? The Lightning Bug Situation in exchange for the Russian Naval Military Band, it's that sort of swapping of the music that resonates with us that really makes this whole internetz thing all so worthwhile. I wish I had listened prior to shoveling the walk...

It's beautiful music at any time, Al, but I do agree that you will glean the most from it when you are in the mood to listen. A quiet time when you are in the mood to contemplate.
It was really fun and mind-expanding to exchange questions on this album. I was quite amazed to find we asked each other a couple of identical questions, which I guess is rather telling.