Free and legal MP3: Liza Anne (concise, cathartic)

“Devotion” – Liza Anne

“Devotion” is a crashing wave of a song, two minutes and twenty-four seconds of concentrated intention, with Nashville’s Liza Anne singing about re-establishing her sense of self after a break-up. If she sounds more than a little agitated, it reflects the mindset of someone waking up to how diminished she had become within the relationship—working now, as she sings, to “find the bits of me I shook off/to appease you.”

Launching off a three-note bass line introduction, “Devotion” means business from the start, with as authoritative an opening line as I’ve heard in a while: “I’m gonna try because I need to/Be the woman who doesn’t need you.” Liza Anne’s voice is conspiratorial, fluttery, attention-grabbing; the music throbs and itches, with guitars scratching around the edges. The chorus lays out the song’s central thesis in an impressive 15-second journey from calm reflection (“Devotion/Return to me”) through expansive supposition (“Who I was before I was in love”) into cathartic, idiosyncratic declaration (“I’ll do anything for her now/She’s my longest love”)—the last lines, which refer to herself, an uninhibited outburst more spoken than sung, an endearing cross between Debbie Harry and Annabella Lwin, for you old-school folks.

By Liza Anne’s own account, “Devotion” was written in 10 minutes; there are occasionally arguments to be made, in rock’n’roll, for not over-thinking things. The song was released as a single back in October. Her debut album, Fine But Dying, dates back to October 2018; check it out via Bandcamp.

MP3 via The Current (see note below).

(MP3s from the Minneapolis public radio station The Current are available in files that are 128kbps, which is below the established 192kbps standard, not to mention the higher-def standard of 320kbps. I personally don’t hear much difference on ordinary equipment but if you are into high-end sound you’ll probably notice something. In any case I always encourage you to download the MP3 for the purposes of getting to know a song via a few listens; if you like it I as always urge you to buy the music. It’s still, and always, the right thing to do.)

Free and legal MP3: Bowerbirds (lovely, deliberate, & cathartic)

“Tuck the Darkness In” turns cathartic before its five minutes are done.


“Tuck The Darkness In” – Bowerbirds

Lovely and deliberate, “Tuck the Darkness In” turns cathartic before its five minutes are done. The key to the transformation is the song’s determined pace, which does not change from beginning to end. As minimal and serene as the arrangement feels at the outset, this is a toe-tapper from the get-go—the music truly seems to enter the body as soon as the drum and guitar begin their joint, muted cadence five seconds in. Close your eyes and bob your head and torso to the rhythm here. You’ll see.

And then we get this interruption, this tension and suspension that glides into the song at around the two-minute mark, which becomes a bridge (a suspension bridge?) rife with the sense of something about to happen but not yet happening. Each lyrical line here begins with the preposition “before” (“Before the hours took over,” et al), which reinforces a sense of incompleteness and mystery; we’re never given the countervailing thought directly (what? what happened before the hours took over?) but the weight and intent of the whole song gives it to us indirectly. The song is a striking and poetic meditation on mortality. Live and pay attention, now, is the message. It’s all we ever have.

The bridge seamlessly re-engages the heart of the song at around 2:50, the drumbeat now insistent, backing harmonies added. The sound expands, with electricity and ghostliness; the melody, anthemic all along, brings us home. This is thoughtful, powerful stuff.

Bowerbirds is a Raleigh-based duo that has had (and maybe will yet have) more members at other times. The band was previously featured on Fingertips in 2007. “Tuck the Darkness In” is the first song available from the forthcoming album The Clearing, which will be here in March on the Dead Oceans label. MP3 via the record company.