30 March 2007

(i wanna get) MAA-riit!

come closer, love...

Marit Larsen Day, apart from being most of the days around here, is so magnificent that it spanned both yesterday (when my copy of under the surface arrived in the mail, and when i finally got the photos i'd taken of her in austin - the best of the rest of which have been added to the original sxsw post.) and the day before (when this interview ran in stylus, and when she became mymymyspace friend.) i guess today too, since i'm finally posting this now, and hopefully nan will manage to send me the videos too.

i can't really explain why it took me this long to fall completely in love with her (music, and her), considering dave and frank have been harping on about her since at least this time last year. i've been open to it, but i think not having a physical cd really does slow things down, and of course seeing her in person (these photos are still no comparison, sorry) was the absolute clincher. it sounds like she's looking for stateside distribution and is hoping to come back and tour here (that's what she told us), so hopefully so...

seeing and meeting her, of course, has given a new dimension to my relationship with under the surface. without getting into a deep analysis of the album's lyrics, i want to reflect on them a little bit. i'm sitting here trying to read through some of them in the booklet, which is a strange experience because they are printed with no line breaks or punctuation, and to begin with they're often composed of short phrases which are sometimes ambiguously related.

lillie says that the songs "lack a certain maturity" - which i can hear, though in the case of a song like the vaguely platitudinous "solid ground," it can be tough (or subjective) to separate the prosaic from the profound. that one i hear as earnest and genuinely moving - similarly to some of the recent "inspirational" amy diamond songs, though perhaps with a more probably basis in life experience. "come closer" - easily my favorite song on the record - is gorgeous and heartbreaking and very true (it hits close to home for me - maybe for a lot of people, as lillie suggests) and certainly seems to come from the heart for marit (and is especially touching knowing how shy she can be/seem.)

this is despite it having, like a number of her songs, some curious lyrical turns of phrase ("it's a nice escape"? - though that's not the best example), which could be poetic license, "immature" craftsmanship, semi-deliberate ambiguity, or an imperfect command of english coming through (though her spoken english certainly seems masterful.) it's funny to have to sift through these possibilities to try to get a sense of what she's after.

as i see it, where the songs do often falter is where they don't seem to be coming from her lived experience - most notably "this time tomorrow," a tale of suspicion and domestic infidelity (which calls to mind "the long honeymoon" and a few other elvis costello songs) that is very oddly distanced from the song's narrator by being told in second person, addressed to the (presumably?) cheating husband/boyfriend, as if from the psychological perspective of the wife/girlfriend but related by a third party. it's hard to see where marit fits into this equation, since i doubt that she's experienced a situation specifically like this (though her jealous tendencies - and her internal conflict about them - on are clearly on display in more straightforward, confessional title track.) obviously, a song doesn't need to come from personal experience to be good or to ring true, but in this case the story feels more like a series of strung-together clichés than a resonant psychological portrait.

on the other hand, the 'lack of maturity' is part of what gives the album its vibrancy - in some ways this album represents marit "growing up" and distancing herself from her teenybopper days in m2m, but (as is absolutely fitting for a 22-23 year old), it still retains a lot of youthfulness, hand in hand with a more reflective perspective on it. she's hardly a teen-pop artist anymore (i'd describe the album musically as a fairly equal balance between country, rootsy folk, and polished, m2m-style pop), but i love the teen-pop-like flashes on it, especially the multi-tracked spoken-sung moments in the bridge of "don't save me" ("don't you dare! leave me here!") and the chorus of "the sinking game" ("we dive!") those two songs are the album's most exuberant and just plain fun, and in a way their most youthful, but they're hardly innocent - they have their eyes wide open about the messiness of love. and so that makes them probably the most complex and truthful, and revealing.

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