How long are you willing to wait?
For me? June 14th marked 10 years.
Postal Service on tour for the first time since 2003, when their one and only album, Give Up was released. I still remember where I was 10 years ago when I first discovered them; on the corner of Newbury Street and Mass. Ave, sporting a pair of vinyl headphones that blocked out a modicum of retail chatter as I stood transfixed at a listening station in the belly of Boston’s Virgin Megastore. It was there I heard Ben Gibbard’s soft, pleading voice loud and clear:
I’m thinking it’s a sign, that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images, and when we kiss they’re perfectly aligned.
I’ll be the water wings that save you, if you start drowning in an open tab, when your judgment’s on the brink.
I turned the jewel case over in my hands studying the cover art and playlist, mesmerized. How could he have written lines that so perfectly captured the all-consuming desire of new love or the heartaching loss of it? I bought the album, listened to it on repeat for a good six months. It paid off too because I can still sing along with every word.
Ten years later.
In a sports arena.
Following the herd of hipsters up the steps of the Barclay Arena to the city streets, my friends and I chattered on about how good they sounded and whether it was music or lyrics that first drew you into a song.
For my boyfriend, Marc, and our friend, Tara? It’s the music.
For Tara’s husband, Dan, and I? It’s the lyrics.
Truth be told, I’ve always be enamoured of prose set to music (no doubt it’s the writer in me), the raw emotion on display in a catchy, rhythmic delivery. I first dialed into this experience in high school, when I discovered the Smiths. Morrissey crooning: If a double-decker bus, crashes into us; to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die in “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” made me wonder how a man could be so tortured, yet simultaneously poetic — I had never had experienced such dark emotions in my 16 years, but my teenage heart understood the anguish in a palpable way. To this day, whenever iTunes serves up that very song, I’m transported back to driving the streets of Dana Point in my Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera SL with my best friend, each of us singing at the top of our lungs.
Lyrics still stop me in my tracks to this day. Some recent favorites?
The Avett Brothers – So when you run, make sure you run to something and not away from, cause lies don’t need an aeroplane to chase you anywhere
The Lumineers – You told me you were good at runnin’ away, domestic life had never suited you like a suitcase
Vampire Weekend – All your diction dripping with disdain, through the pain I always tell the truth
There is nothing like that first moment of hearing a new song, the words catch your ear while your brain makes sense of it, the meaning slowly revealing itself. And that moment when you get “it”? It’s as though a spark of creativity ignites and I find myself wanting to catch it as it courses through the ether. It beckons me to write, to create, or, at the very least, consider the possibilities.
So what draws you in: music or lyrics?