Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Lori Carson: Fragile Beauty

New York City is a perpetually active and fertile birthplace and breeding ground for some of the industry's most accomplished singer-songwriters, but rarely has one emerged from the Big Apple who combines such delicate, glass-like artistic fragility and a keen, observant awareness of harsh, sometimes surreal modern inner-city life. Yes, it's the perpetually underrated Lori Carson that's the subject of this article.

Much like Suzanne Vega (but without the sometimes-heavygoing literateness that is a trademark of most of Vega's works), Carson specialises in detailing the ebbs and flows of NYC life, brilliantly capturing that sense of urban disorientation that comes with living in such a gargantuan metropolis. Her conventionally-structured, if somewhat bittersweet-flavoured pop songs possess a translucent, Zen-like quality that belies their oftentimes-turbulent lyrical content. Plus it's all eminently hummable.

Here are three stellar examples of Carson's brand of confessional songwriting, displaying the full array of human conditions, i.e. the untouchable triumvirate of Melancholia, Heartbreak and Delirium.

A pensive study in morning-after miserablism, "Where It Goes" is replete with aching self-doubt and surreal lyricism ("A friend went to Paris, and even if it rains there, going somewhere is better than nowhere", "If you can't sleep, call her up in LA, she's living there in a house full of bluejays"), set to a crafted acoustic-guitar loop and subtle percussion backdrops.

One of the most open-hearted odes to an unrequited love ever penned, "Snow Come Down" is almost unbearably, frighteningly intense in its slow realisation that the protagonist's anguished outpouring of emotions ("Every time I see your face, I can hardly breathe, every time I see your face. I feel stupid and happy") will never, ever be reciprocated.

The most evocative portrayal of recurring psychosis ever set to song, "Train" finds Carson half-saying, half-singing the deliberate, stream-of-consciousness babble ("You know I never get anywhere, just go back and forth, I'm a freak at the station, and I don't know why, I have nothing in common with any other human being", "People look at me cross-eyed and I know I've really lost my mind"), against a backdrop of industrial clatter and train noises.


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