Picks of the Past: Lovers
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Jesse Flavin, Daniel Rickard, Brent Jones andCarolyn Berk. (photo: Knut Hybinette)
“Carolyn Berk sees dead people. Or so one would think, after listening to any of the songs by her band, Lovers.” That’s the sort of glib, clever opening line a typical music critic might employ in a review of a Loversalbum. Not that I have anything in particular against music critics – hell, at least they get
tocome up with glib lines. But
The Gutter and the Garden,
a new album by Lovers that I was fortunateenough to preview, is a different animal; it’s just
that.That’s because this is the most moving and inspirational album I have heard all year. Moving? Clearly. Inspirational? Well, not in the sense that I want to emulate the personal travails andtraumas Ms Berk writes about in her songs. What I actually wish to emulate is Ms Berk’s skill as awriter.Which brings us back around to the aforementioned dead people. The album is positively chock-a-block with them.
Your love is like a vulture, it feeds off what is dead,
writes Berk in “the first law of thermodynamics” (the track listing I was provided has everything in lower case, and I'm not about tosecond-guess them). Later in the same track, she writes,
I’ve not forgotten what I said, come and find me when you’re dead / My heart is haunted.
In the song “your handwriting (a porch song)”, Berk refersto an emotional landscape
where we live like full-grown ghosts of twelve-year-olds.
And I haven’t evenmentioned the song “the air you breathe is full of ghosts”. The lyrics are written largely in clever couplets with whimsical imagery, and feature subject matter thatranges from sentimental musings to dour laments. Yet it somehow never comes across as maudlin.Indeed, it takes considerable skill to tread such lyrically well-traveled ground without sounding clichéd,to give universal themes a breath of fresh air, even if that air is cold. Of course, if good lyrics are not backed up by musical arrangements that are equal to the task, thenall you have is a spoken-word album; or worse – folk music. Fortunately, it’s the
of Lovers thatseals the deal, the propulsion that drives the lyrics into your heart. On Lovers' debut album,
Starlit Sunken Ship,
Carolyn Berk was backed primarily by slide-guitarist Daniel Rickard andapparently-able-to-play-every-instrument Brent Jones, and aided by a bevy of session musicians whoorchestrated her original acoustic melodies into something grander and richer. On
The Gutter and theGarden,
piano, percussion and violin add much to the mood, and a little goes quite a long way.
4 Dec 04 - 28 Oct 07
1/26/2011Picks of the Past: Loversreplay.waybackmachine.org/…/id24.html1/2