A Note To Songwriters: I listened to many albums trying to pathetically imitate what this album does. If you’ve got nothing to say then please shut the fuck up. Seriously, I beg you, just shut the fuck up. I don’t care if there’s outside pressure to release something. Practice that shit in your room. Play it to your family. But don’t release an album that’s not real. Just be honest. That’s all I ask. If we all started to do this maybe the world would be a better place. Who knows, maybe not. But at the very least, we wouldn’t be wasting each other’s time with subpar music.
Now, back to the show!
I’m a big fan of strong feminine voices singing and writing heartfelt tunes. Just like a male singer/songwriter, it’s an unbelievable and life-altering experience when done well (Miseducation, Tapestry, Jagged Little Pill, Blue, Lemonade, Horses, etc.). This short Circuit des Yeux album (aka Haley Fohr) fell on me like a cold glass of water on a hot day in a deserted and fucking desolate desert. Straight up though? I would totally understand if you hated it. Haley has one distinct voice. She’s a baritone (think Nina Simone, Scott Walker, or Nico with a fuckton of training [or any training at all]). But, when I hear Haley sing, it doesn’t just come with the sound of her voice, it signals my brain to get ready for her smart instrumentation and deep poeticism. I don’t remember what I thought when I first heard her voice. But now all that comes to mind is quality. To me, it’s like listening to the drawl of Cohen, that odd falsetto or Young, or that growl of Cash: the sound of their voice clings you to your seat for what’s about to come. Right off the bat, Haley throws her odd humour and existential lyricism into overdrive:
“The world wants to know
But all you can say
Is ‘I promise to take up space
I can only promise to take up space’”
Some other examples:
“You’re not the dark star they want you to be
You’re just a black dot in the sky
A black fly”
“Stick your head into a paper bag
And see just what you find”
“Flip-flop, flip-flop, you’re moving your mouth
Words falling like Spanish wine”
These lyrics are thick, dark, ominous, and vivid. But most importantly they’re funny as fuck when they’re supposed to be. This shit isn’t here to weigh you down. When it comes to instrumentation get ready to fucking stretch. It expands and bends your thinking on what pop is supposed to be. It’s abstract. It’s experimental. But it never goes so far that it loses its tonality.
The music works as a setting to Haley’s brain, her words, and her world. At times it can be a distorting place. But, holy fuck, is it a nice place to visit. It has no apologies for its existence. It’s not scared of pushing things past the point of comfortable if it means being truthful (think PJ Harvey and Bjork in this way … that’s right … welcome to that shit). It’s a beautifully chaotic experience. From the organ tones to the swelling horns and the obvious token to avant-garde music from the ’60 and often the ’80s. It sticks its brass neck out for all to see. It’s not artsy and obnoxious. It won’t puke then call it performance art. The record is modest, abstract, and if you haven’t caught this yet, it’s honest. Like things with substance and thoughtfulness, it stands out from the rest. Cream really does rise to the top.