Smoky with simmering passion, “Ace of Cups” is a minimal yet alluring brew of contradictions, beginning with the way this clearly articulated song of precise, simple words and sentences adds nevertheless up to an oracular mystery. The “you” addressed in the lyrics is at one point a man, another point a woman. The ocean and/or sea seems at once a place that beckons and threatens. Likewise love is sung about as a force at one moment dangerous, another moment redemptive. Finally, Fink herself sings with a calm lucidity even while delivering the repeated lyric in the chorus, “You can fill up my cup/I’ll take it cool, I’ll take you rough.”
The music, meanwhile, is unhurried and contained, its gentle sheen contradicted subtly by two separate varieties of fuzzed-up keyboards—the soft, blurry sound you can hear at the end of the lines in the verses, and then the harsher, higher-pitched, buzzier synth that punctuates the chorus. Even the guitar solo (2:51) implies more than it reveals; a repeating III interval, its minimalist yearning continues into the rest of the song, adding a pining solidity to the chorus’s final repetition.
Some knowledge of the titular tarot card clarifies a little, but not much. The Ace of Cups is a card associated with emotional expression, including the possibility of love and intimacy, but typically with spiritual undertones. The love we are ultimately opened to with the Ace of Cups is love in the broadest sense, rooted in love of self and extending into love of life in all its facets. But, just as tarot cards themselves resist one easy interpretation, so too this “Ace of Cups.”
You’ll find the song on Fink’s forthcoming album Blue Dream, to be released in August on Saddle Creek Records, where it is now available for pre-order on CD and on vinyl. This is Fink’s third solo album. She remains best known as half of the duo Azure Ray, but on her own has been a Fingertips favorite over the years, featured here in 2005 (for the still-stirring song, “Bloodline“) and again in 2009, and also as half of the duo O+S, who were likewise featured in 2009. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the lead.
photo credit: Bill Sitzmann