Guest Writer: Edward
I know it’s 2018 and most people stream TV or change the channel during commercials, and airlines aren’t really targeting ads at YouTube viewers, but anyone remember those damn Southwest commercials? The ones where the tagline was “want to get away?” As a natural introvert, sometimes I feel like I need one of those commercials to walk up, slap me in the face (slide me enough cash for a plane ticket), and point me in a direction to hop on a flight to some cave where I can sit alone and do nothing for a little (read: long) while. Now most people wouldn’t actually ever just get on a plane and fly to some remote cave and just sit there and not let anyone find them, but I’d be down. On one condition. You let me take Devotion by Tirzah with me.
The entirety of Devotion sounds like the kind of music that would fill an empty cave whether you played it just above a whisper or if you played it loud enough to give you tinnitus. Sometimes Tirzah comes at you as soft as a mouse and other times she’s T-Pain autotune singing over weirdly dynamic instrumentals full of guitar and low-end that frankly, is perfectly imperfect and doesn’t make much sense.
And all of this is before we even get to the fact that the album is really just this skinned-to-the-bone raw and intimate retelling of relationships that are at times as sweet and romantic as the rom coms my college roommate used to watch alone, and as sour as the milk my other roommates made because they were slobs.
I, to this day, am terrible at art. Anything involving some writing utensil and some canvas that has nothing to do with just simply writing words on a page, I’m fucking terrible at. Like really horrendous. Always. Back in elementary and middle school when part of school meant having to incorporate the arts into education, we used to have to make these shoebox dioramas in lieu of book reports. The entire art form of making a good shoebox diorama is filling them with a specific scene, to try and draw the attention and the intimacy of a particular moment by visualizing whatever it was you read. My dioramas were best described as sparse, mostly because I was terrible at art and knew it. I used to draw literal stick figures and glue them to the back of shoeboxes and then draw one or two representative items from the book and slap ‘em in there as well. Then I would write what the hell you were looking at—which defeated the whole point. Devotion is like a sparse and intimate diorama, but in the good way. Every song is a snapshot of a particular moment and feeling that Tirzah manages to create a visceral image for. Her box is full of 3D renditions of whatever emotion or relational stage she wants you to feel. You open the shoe box and it shines a gloriously dull beige light (like the color of this webpage but with the brightness set to 500%) on you and instead of the chorus of angels, you hear her tell you she just wants you to listen honestly and intently while Coby Sey sings “so listen to me” over and over again. She’s the kind of person that would’ve made me realize I was really, really bad at art.
She’s also the person who made me realize I’m probably (read: definitely) really really bad at relationships. Devotion has levels of relationship honesty I’ve at times felt I had figured out, but (hindsight being a devilish 20/10) I probably was a long shot away from. The only bad thing about Tirzah is that she isn’t a more famous public figure, but even this is a good thing because I’d feel bad for the people on the other side of some of these emotional diatribes. It’s a blessing Tirzah’s shoebox diorama doesn’t have any names or faces. I know Taylor Swift is notorious for being the person you don’t want to break up with because she’ll essentially slander your name in song like the snake she is, but Tirzah would ether Taylor Swift in a slander battle, and Tirzah even ethers herself at points. (I guess that’s a part of self-reflective emotional honesty?) If people knew you broke up with Tirzah, and then heard a song like “Go Now”, no one would ever be able to trust your ability to be in a relationship again, simply because you somehow managed to push the most emotionally honest and available person in the world too far.
Honestly, Devotion is a vital piece of art that swaddles you in sonic space and emotion like a baby (even if you’re born in a lowly manger, shout out Jesus cause it’s almost Christmas). It moves with the force of the best kind of teacher: slightly scary and extremely patient all at the same time. It’s sparse like a gargantuan garden with only enough plants in it to feed a family of one, but as inviting as this same person somehow managing to have a stocked refrigerator.
So please, someone buy me a plane ticket and a cave to sit in. Just make sure there’s an outlet so I can charge my phone and listen to Devotion over and over again.