Thursday, December 7, 2023

All is Forgiven by Lilli Lewis

 So let me start with I know Lilli Lewis.  My daughters call her Aunt Lilli so if you are like well Martha can't be impartial then that may be true, but I challenge you to go and listen to the album and then come at me.

Where do I start with Lilli Lewis's new release?  Do I start with the song that I love most? song that makes me dance?  song that makes me question life? I'll go down the song list!

I lied so general feeling first.  I love this album and not just because I've watched Lilli workshop some of these songs over the last year.  I'll be honest there is a track that does not make sense to me for this album but man do I love Lilli's voice.  I am always on pins and needles when I know Lilli is about to release something new into the world.  One, I love Lilli as a human, as an auntie to my girls, as a soul sister to my husband, the list goes on.  Two, because I love Lilli's music, I want others to love Lilli's music.  I want the world to be on fire for her because her music moves my soul.  I'll tell you the thing that worries me about the rest of the world finding Lilli is I don't want to hear covers of her music.  I want Lilli's voice only.  Light (O, Let Your Light Shine) has been covered, and the first time I heard it I was offended.  Like that is my song who in the world had the gaul to sing it!?  Anyways, it's an okay cover.

But to All Is Forgiven, the album is well worth your listen.  Like most of Lilli's music, you can enjoy it without listening hard to the lyrics but if you take the time to listen and really hear the lyrics you are in for a soul punch.  Lilli really likes to bring you in for a hug and then whisper in your ear, "Was that action really an act of radical decency or are you being an asshole?"  The funny thing is since she punches your soul in the midst of the hug, you are able to take it for what she is giving which is love.  When so many people are demanding you be kind, Lilli asks are you decent to yourself and others?  Why the difference?  Lilli believes in accountability!

So starting with Sin Eater, she wants you to not be an asshole.  Like I'll give and you take but don't think I don't see you taking more than you should.  To me, all of the kindness is life rhetoric implies taking shit.  Radical decency gives you permission to call out bs.  Also, the tuba/sousaphone if you don't bop to this then I don't even want to speak to you, like for real.

Happy Enough is a song I know from Lilli's The Shiz days.  I did not know she was bringing to this album.  I was shocked and at first, I didn't like it.  I mean where is Liz's voice?  The song feels different but in a good way.  The Shiz's version felt like a challenge.  The Shiz version with Liz on lead vocal is more like Liz was in your face and if answered wrong there was going to be a fight.  Lilli's version is more fun, and less dangerous.  It may be the mellowing of all of us, Lilli, Liz, and myself, all being in our 40s so rather than the need to fight, it is now an acceptance that if I'm not happy enough for you well that is your problem, not mine.

The title track, All is Forgiven, is the best throwback to the 80s.  This needs to be the theme song to a great family sitcom.  I can see Steve Winwood with some amazing backup singers just getting down to this.  Then Whitney Houston would cover it for a retro-film.  Anyway, the point is I like it and it reminds me of the 80s.

Lilli's Just One Ride is a heartbreaker.  I first heard it about a year ago when she was workshopping it.  My immediate thought was this belongs on Grey's Anatomy.  But very specifically over a scene where Dr. Callie Torres (played by Sara Ramirez) finally finds her own voice and takes charge of her life.  I don't know if that scene exists but it should and this song should play over it.  I pray that more people fall in love with Just One Ride.  

If You Really Mattered is a call to action.  It sounds melancholy but again, if you want to be melancholy you 100% can or you can listen to the lyrics and get off your ass.  This is a reminder that we have to practice radical decency with ourselves.  Hold ourselves accountable to be amazing humans with gifts and talents meant to be shared not hidden.  This is Lilli looking at you and telling you, "You are amazing and you are here to do amazing shit.  Get off your ass.  I see you!  I see you sitting!  GET OFF YOUR ASS!"  But in a soft tune so you don't even realize she is kicking you in the ass.

I think Possible is the part II to If You Really Mattered.  "To Trust You Back"  Just that line.  Can you trust yourself?  See accountability!  Get off your ass.  Stop listening to those assholes, you are amazing!

Okay and then you are lead into what feels like an oddball off the wall, WTF in Ciel Eternel.  Don't get me wrong it is beautiful.  If you don't know the ability of Lilli's voice, this shows it off beautifully but what is she saying?  I don't speak French so I don't know.  But it is pretty.

If you make it this far in this blog and the album then you know that you are going back into hell; you are being called back to radical decency.  Drink This Water Child is another slow song with deep lyrics.  Lilli often sings of water and uses water as a metaphor.  I wish she had punched up the vocals because they feel hidden behind the music.  The water is deep and I feel like I don't get the lyrical punch because I struggle to hear the actual words.  

The ending track is a piano-forward song named Firefly.  This feels like a southern porch in the middle of a hot summer night when you are having deep conversations with your best friend.  You are watching the fireflies and realizing that you are the light that this world needs but it is hot and late so you are just going to sit, talk, and drink some sweet tea.  It is a call to action and a reminder to move with intention so that the heat doesn't overwhelm you, no wasted energy.

So that is All Is Forgiven the new album by Lilli Lewis.  She is a profound music writer.  She can take a simple message, practice radical decency, and make it pretty or loud so that it is accessible to everyone.  Listen to it.  Tell me I'm full of it.  I am not a profound writer.  I am not a profound music critic.  This music I like.  I think you might like it too.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Open Letter to Brandon Flowers of The Killers

 So I don’t know Brandon and have zero expectation that he’ll read this but it is on my heart so here goes:

Dear Brandon, hope it’s cool I address you so informally.  

So it hurts my heart to hear you have scrapped the new album.  "boy" and "Your Side of Town" are the start of a fun record but I get not feeling it.  As one of your fans who despised Pressure Machine, it really hurts my heart you want to do more music like that.  See it was done well but you did it at the height of lockdown and well it is depressing as fuck.  I can almost love some of the tracks from the abridged version.  "Runaway Horses" live just spoke to me in a way that it didn’t just listening to it on the album but actually that isn’t the point of this letter.

To the point: sir, you mention not wanting to be the “Somebody Told Me” guy.  I totally get that.  The song hit 20 years ago.  You aren’t that guy anymore but see here is the thing, we aren’t the same kids who fell in love with that song as it hit either.  Believe it or not, we have grown and aged with you.  We are in our 40s too!  We are parents.  We are married.  We have lived through some shit same as you.  

You are smart.  This is something you already know so back to finding the point here.  We have matured and we understand you and your music has to too.  While I am probably never going to listen to all of Pressure Machine again, I understand where it came from.  But you aren’t just the Hot Fuss guy.  The Killers are more than a few hits, for your fans The Killers are old memories and new memories.

Sometimes I do escape into Hot Fuss.  I remember listening to it when it first hit and then everything since.  To this day, Sam’s Town is my go to for study time because it was all I listened to as I worked on my Masters of Ed.  My doctorate application is Battle Born.  I still remember having a complete crying fit in the local coffeeshop listening to "Runaways."  My actual studies are your solo album, Flamingo.  I will never be able to think of the 2020 election week without hearing "Imploding the Mirage" in my mind.  Every time the news mentioned the implosion of the red wave, I could hear your voice holding Mirage.  Your voice has colored my life for the last 20 years.

So what is my ask?  Release new songs that show us you as the man you are today.  Even if that place is dark and uncomfortable because at times we are dark and uncomfortable too.  Show us how to survive the rough parts of our marriages.  Talk to us about raising boys.  Sing to us about your crumbling illusions of life and the joys of creating yourself into something new.

Why?  Because we are living those phases too.  Way back on Battle Born, you had a song “The Way it Was” and you talk about wanting to go back.  The new life you have isn’t what you wanted and you want to go back to the way it was.  I have always had a love/hate relationship with that song.  Yes, the beginning of a romance is beautiful but so is the middle and growing with someone.  That is what you are asking from us, to let go of the way it was and meet you here and now.  So let us meet you here and now.

Please tour smaller venues where we can see the whites of your eyes. Play in places where Ronny’s sweat will get all over us.  Be close to us and see that yes, we have all changed and honestly it is for the better.

Brandon, darling, you are in middle life.  It’s cool.  I am having hot flashes as I write.  We have both aged.  Now is the time to work on ourselves, to work at being parents and good life partners.  Now is the time to leave the literal arena for the metaphorical arena of middle age.  Listen to Brene Brown.  She has some fabulous thoughts on middle age.  Please don’t kill The Killers.  Let The Killers evolve and age.  Your true victims will be there to listen.

Signed a middle age fan girl from Texas

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Music is life so when . . .

Music is life so when a friendship ends, the soundtrack of that friendship leaves me with songs I can't listen to for a while.  The fresh ending of what I thought was a friendship but since I can be so easily removed tells me that I was probably closer to a therapist than a friend means I have a whole new list of songs that hurt to listen to.  While the wound on my soul is no longer bleeding, it is not yet a scar so listening to certain songs is akin to picking the scab off a cut.

If you actually know me then you have heard me sing.  Choirs, band, concerts and any variation there in will illicit singing from me.  If you have heard me sing a made-up on the spot song then you are part of my inner circle or witnessed one of the few times I was comfortable enough to just sing whatever.  Catch me in at the right time and you can hear me singing about inventory, shelf shifting, making bread, walking down the hallway, or whatever the hell I'm doing to whatever tune comes to mind.  The point is music is life.

So with music basically being my love language, people get a song assigned to them in my mind.  I lierally created a presentation for one of my doctoral classes where I took pictures of my cohort members with songs that remind me of them; I got a good grade.  I think there are 2 songs that really capture what I'm trying to say: Trisha Yearwood's The Song Remembers When and Neon Tree's Songs I Can't Listen To.  Moments and people cemented with sing.  (Both great songs so go give them a listen.) The concert we went to.  The concerts we played.  The song that we sung while driving down the road.  The song that was playing when we were skating, running, walking, laughing. Songs now prune-y in sorrow and tears, sometimes metaphorical and sometimes literal.  

It isn't your fault I can't listen to them.  Honestly by in large, it isn't your fault my heart is broken.  I know I'll heal and I'll be able to listen to them again and smile at the memories. I'm not there yet.

One day, like the other day when That's Not My Name came on, I'll smile and sing at the top of my lungs and whoever is with me will hear me say "Hey, that songs always reminds me of so and so."  That's Not My Name no longer belongs to Soul Sister.  I have claimed it back and now it belongs to me and my memories of learning to play it and performing it.  The song helps me smile when I think back on those days but it did take years.  

I know the songs will be mine again.  The muzak version will no longer stop me and feel like a gut punch.  I know healing is around the corner but I'm not there yet.