Monday, April 14, 2008

You And The Evening Sky

So Alli's new album officially releases tomorrow and I hope that many people get to interact with her words, music, and emotion.

You and the Evening Sky opens with the kind of electone organ drama which is sure to ignite the excitement that any fan of Alli’s is sure to be feeling when they slip this CD into their car or computer. And the record lives up to its beginning.

The songwriting is a bit different than on her other albums which makes me curious about the ways she is evolving as a songwriter- are we seeing a truer voice, simply a movement away from conventionality, the influence of co-writers?

I think the reason I love Ms. Rogers’ songwriting is her strong use of imagery. In the interviews included on the bonus downloads from Alli and Don discuss their differences as songwriters and Don mentions that Alli is a very visual songwriter. I would be interested to unpack that a little more (because Don Chaffer can conjure an image more realistically than any illusionist) because I think this album is even more poetic than her others. Poetic in the sense that images tell the stories and the songs are further stripped of narration than some of her previous. I think this works in varying degrees; it really works on “How Long Until We Get There” but (as I have already discussed ad nauseum) I think it detracts in “New Today.”

Not to say her songs are spastic leaps from vision to vision- some have explicit narrative progression (“Baby I Believe in You”) and my favorite marriage of ecstatic imagery and clear narrative has to be “Things We Can and Cannot Keep.”

I wanted to display some snippets of image but perusing the lyrics I’m delighted to say I don’t think it works to pull them out of context- this is so pleasing because it makes me feel like these songs are really tightly woven. In the interview with Don she talks a lot about the emotions poured into the songs and evoked in their completion and I think that gets more to the core of Alli’s songs- they resonate in ways that are abundant, the way the word “sun” barely captures the thing that warms and enlivens our planet, the way “wind” scarcely covers the phenomenon both of a warm and gentle caress of air and also the destructive power that can rip buildings apart and trees up by the roots.

I've been mulling over this record for a few weeks now and the more I listen to it the more I like it. It's artistic, thoughtful, and it's poetry continues to impress me more the more I get to engage it.

Carry A Light: Firstly, I want to know if the line about a ,i>gift on the riverbank is a reference to Moses or if I am (as usual) reading too much into it.

I love the images and ideas here, it's like skipping stones across water and ripples in the same way. I can't help but think of Galadriel's phial for Frodo, the dark places in all of our lives and how to bring the light there, I love the memory of this song. Also the hopefulness- that's what light is, right?!

Don't Wash Your Hands of Me: I like the narrative of this song; it's sort of ambiguous and I like that. Also! Includes a section of "lalalaladada"s that I like. The lyric that stands out is I don't need you to feel my pain/I just need you to know my name. I also appreciate the boldness of saying I am innocence and I am truth.

Closer to the Moon: Besides being on my own Buechner kick which makes me appreciate this song, I like the conversational tone. It's full of strong imagery and word choice, when the silence gets accusing, the word "accuse" just has such heft to it.

I like the stars as a sign, the way the music in the song changes- it actually reminds me of some of Don's songs, I love the way it sort of wanders. I love the building background vocals of a kind of chanting, I love the piano interlude, I like the lack of words following the questioning and gives the listener time to respond.

At Sea: As a FL girl living in two different COLD places these past few years I love the bend of the song- it reminds me of A Severe Mercy, there are some great adjectives and turns of phrase.

This was another song that was on the live album but immediately I noticed the SWEET addition of mandolin! I'm a total sucker. :)

Things We Can and Cannot Keep: WHAT WILL SHINE LIKE GOLD WHEN THE STORY'S TOLD- that is a great lyric and such a beautiful, important statement. We all are so starved for meaning- this is where I want Buechner's journey to have an influence. It's a great song of self-discovery. I like the homage to Tim O'Brien and the strangeness of what we end up keeping- what shines like gold retrospectively. To take the analogy further it tends to be the times where, as Christians, we might say we are bing "refined," always a surprise.

PLUS, the writing is so tight! The line breaks are so well engineered, I also like the musing spirit, in a way. WHY ARE THESE THINGS THE ONES WE KEEP? I like the combo of question and answer, authority and apprenticeship.

I Caught Sight: I love to come to songs like these!! It REALLY CAPTURES the joy of unexpected glimpses of divinity, childlike in a way; delighted. I like the bits of vocal padding- it really is working. The vocals have a splendid exuberance to them.

Baby I Believe in You: My only complaint about this song is that it is totally MARRED by the "boys" making fun of it on the bonus sections! :) I think I like the use of the word "sexy" in songs like this (see Derek Webb). I love the idea of being led into the sea, something is great in that.

More sweet mandolin. And Alli's brother (Michael?) does a great job on percussion. I also like the you're a good man. I want to pray that part alone over so many of my brothers- I deeply appreciate the underlying confidence in the song.

How Long Until We Get There: This song is downright seductive. In the best way possible; a great example of Alli's emotional vocal range. I love the simile, head bowed like a child reciting grace.

I'm not always like this/I can't always find something this good

As an artist, I LOVE that line, for some reason that lyric just condenses this whole song- it's so HEADY, the strings take it over the top.

Come Now, My Love: I'm really into the use of the first person in this song- something about the perspective is slightly different and challenging.

there's nothing to keep you from me sort of changes the perspective as an invitation not an invasion. It's a genuine love (agape) song, I like that I feel it could be about marriage or Jesus could be sweetly singing this into each of our hearts.

Go listen.

No comments: