Lyrics Discussion Thread

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Lyrics Discussion Thread

Post by acroamor » Sat Jan 12, 2019 7:27 am

Listening to Adrianne Lenker's solo album as well as her releases in her band, Big Thief, and consistently in awe of her lyricism. I thought it might be good to start a thread for people to spotlight lyrics from songs that they particularly like and maybe explicate why.

In one interview, she stated a sentence that I think beautifully sums up the art of lyric writing, and much other writing, as well.

"First it sounds and then it means"

It's a beautiful sentence - just say it - and without even searching for its meaning the rhythm of it is wonderful. Words simply sound good, and that's often why we say them or sing them. Meaning comes in as well, but is not necessarily the point.

While the interview in question was referencing the song "Mary" (my favorite song of 2017), I find it relates very well to that album's other track, "Shark Smile".

"She was a shark smile in a yellow van
She came around and I stole a glance in my youth
A vampire
Evelyn shown quiet as roses sting
It came over me at a bad time
But who wouldn't ride on a moonlit line?
Had her in my eye, 85 down the road of a dead end gleam

And she said woo
Baby, take me
And I said woo
Baby, take me too

It came over her at a bad time
Riding through Winona down the dotted line
Held us gunning out
Ninety miles down the road of a dead end dream
She looked over with a part smile
Caught up in the twinkle, it could take awhile
And the money pile on the dashboard fluttering


Evelyn's kiss was oxygen
I leaned over to take it in
As we went howling through the edge of south Des Moines
It came over me at a bad time
She burned over the double line
And she impaled as I reached my hand for the guardrail
Ooh, the guardrail
Ooh, the guardrail"


That opening line, "she was a shark smile in a yellow van", absolutely blows me away. The tonality of it stuns, and even if you can't exactly explicate what that means, you still understand it on some level, an ominous yearning. A destructive passion, one that grows in each verse. The chorus's simplicity provides a raw counterpoint to the abstracted poetics of the verses. You don't quite realize at first that this is a driving song. And the final verse, the car crash comes - as they do - out of nowhere, and we're quietly devastated. The promise of the opening line is delivered in the closing. And in between, a world sketched in lines of passion and speed.

I hope to hear some of y'alls favorite lyrics as well! I imagine I'll return to this topic periodically to gush about what I find interesting about lyrics. I know not all forum members care for lyrics as much, but I find them incredibly important in the vocal music I listen to.

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