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Like Vines by The Hush Sound
In a world where the music industry is always striving to find the next hit artist, one that will top the charts countless times, society often forgets artists out of the bright light that is popular music. These artists often work harder, if not as hard, as the artists with their faces all over posters, billboards, and magazine covers.
One of these artists I feel deserve more of the spotlight than the often repetitive and monotone superstars of today's media is The Hush Sound. An indie rock band from Chicago, The Hush Sound consists of vocalist and pianist Greta Salpeter, vocalist and guitarist Bob Morris, bassist Chris Faller, and drummer Darren Wilson. Both Morris and Salpeter perform vocals, and often both sing in the same song. The Hush Sound was formed in 2004, and was put on hiatus from 2009 to 2012. During their years before the hiatus, The Hush Sound released their sophomore album, Like Vines, in 2006.
The first time I listened the Like Vines, I was blown away with how easily I could get into the music. Usually it takes me a few listens to really recognize all the music has to offer, but with this album, it hit me right away. With its seamless combination of indie pop, rock, and jangle pop, I had myself thinking, “Why didn't I listen to this any sooner?” This album has influenced me greatly, from its unique sound and its somehow familiar, unique world the songs seem to create.
The opening track on the album, We Intertwined, is what first draws you in. It's catchy and bouncy, with crisp, bright rhythm piano that simply makes you feel good. Although bubbly in melody, the song has a melancholy message, as in the chorus, “I wake up and I feel alone. I was just asleep, right where I belong, inside this sad, sad song.” This gives the song an entirely different feel if you listen directly to the lyrics and see the writer's attempt to mask his desperate search for something within a dream with lively pop music.
The second song, A Dark Congregation, a dismal but beautiful piece that highlights Salpeter's voice, is another track sure to get people's interest. The lyrics paint a dreary picture of a dim lighted land cloaked in the soft snow of the frosty winter. A lyrical highlight, “We are surrounded by all of the quiet sleepers inside the quiet earth. I feel that I cannot shape you, dare to kiss the face of the night. Our lips were cold as clay; we couldn't speak anyway” reminds me of an age-old legend told to children as forewarning bedtime stories. The lyrics paint a world which would be intriguing but chilling to live in.
The next track, Sweet Tangerine, is one of the most interestingly desperate love songs I know. It tells the story of a man who longs to have his love back, whom he calls “Sweet Tangerine.” It has similar dark imagery to A Dark Congregation, but with similar instrumentation to We Intertwined. This song also displays a theme that is often present in this album: dreams. The lines, “Crept through the curtains, as quick as the cold winds, slowly exploring the room where you sleep,” and, “I will dissolve into the dark beneath your bed,” suggest that maybe he is not actually real, and instead only a dream. Maybe “Sweet Tangerine” cannot hear his pleas because he's nothing but a delusion.
Lion's Roar, the fourth track on the album, is a rather brief but stirring song. Telling the story of a circus and perhaps the same man as Sweet Tangerine, who is searching for someone within his dream world. Plenty of horn instruments and provoking, poetic storytelling are both abundant in this piece. The lines, “We didn't know we could not go. The circus songs just carried on. Out of the crowd, three men rush out and scream and shout, 'Everybody stop!'” make me wonder what exactly is going on at this circus. Are they being held against their will? Why did the men want to stop the performance? The last minute of this track is fairly haunting, being instrumental and reminiscent of a strong breeze howling through the trees. Along with the trumpets, it paints the picture of a gloomy and disturbing circus.
One of my favorite tracks, Lighthouse, is a song mainly composed of Salpeter's vocals and piano. Along with Lion's Roar, it is slightly ominous and dark. It tells the tale of a couple, running from a burning city, who take refuge in an old lighthouse. There is a ghost of a girl that haunts the lighthouse. She was waiting for her lover, a sailor, who promised to meet her in the lighthouse, but he never arrived. The door locked from the outside, leaving the poor girl to face her fate. The last line of the song, and the one that has left me with a lasting impression is, “We went in, we climbed up and looked out. The door locked from the outside, three ghosts in a lighthouse.” After these lines are sung, the music stops abruptly, symbolizing the dramatic moment when these two lovers suddenly realized their terrible fate.
The sixth track is Don't Wake Me Up, another dreamlike track, this time with both Morris and Salpeter's voices together. This track also has vocals from Fall Out Boy frontman and producer of Like Vines, Patrick Stump. This track also tells about two people separated by their dreams. It has a very sleepy feel to it, like a lot of the album. Some of my favorite lyrics of this song are, “Oh, you were a fire caught in a storm. Memories like embers keep us warm.” These words are examples of very powerful similes and metaphors. Out of all of the songs on this album, I believe Don't Wake Me Up could be a song that many people would enjoy, because of the beautiful lyrics and sound that matches the feel of the words.
The next track is called Where We Went Wrong. Again, this track showcases both singers' voices to create a very emotional performance. This song uses the ocean and sailing as a metaphor for a relationship, as seen in the lyrics, “We set the wrong course and headed due north. That's where we went wrong,” and, “My heart has lost its wind now, broken like a dead sail. My love has drifted out to sea.” This song is very beautiful in melody and mood.
The eighth song, Magnolia, is an amazing piece that really highlights Salpeter's poetic songwriting and great imagery. The song refers to the subject of the song as a flower, in the lyrics, “You are weathered and worn, your petals soft and torn,” while the speaker also says to “run where you'll be safe, through the garden gates to the shelter of magnolias,” maybe suggesting that if the subject is metaphorically a magnolia, they should go to a place that is safe, with other people like them. Although it is a heartbreaking tale, it is a highlight on the album for its incredible storytelling.
If you were to know a song by The Hush Sound, there's a good chance it would probably be the next track, Wine Red. This song is one of their more popular ones, and as a melancholy story of someone who has been accidentally killed, which is mentioned in the lyrics, “Who shot that arrow in your throat? Who missed the crimson apple? It hung heavy on the tree above your head.” The mental picture that this song paints has been discussed as an allusion to the Garden of Eden because of the lines, “This chaos, this calamity, this garden once was perfect. Give your immortality to me, I'll set you up among the stars.” This song uses lots of color in its lyrics, which help to create the vibrant mental picture that The Hush Sound are most known for. Along with the crimson apple, they also paint a disturbing picture with, “The sea's wine red,” suggesting that this death of this person is so significant that it would stain this beautiful garden forever.
As the album starts to come to a close, you hear the depressing Out Through The Curtain. This song is about a man who has spent his entire life stuck inside their dark, dreary home, while he watches the rest of the world live out their lives happily. Filled with forlorn organ and dark imagery, it could be a metaphor for depression or being stuck inside a part of yourself that prevents you from growing or experiencing joy or contentment. The lines, “Like the light was all I had, I struck the book with my last match. The candle burned so soft and slow. I felt the warmth and felt its glow,” shows that this man has run out of everything that brings light to his life, now he will be swallowed by the darkness. The last lines, “Won't let it pass me by again,” are repeated, showing emphasis on his desire to have taken an opportunity when he had the chance. This song can teach us that sometimes you need to seize an opportunity or become lost in the darkness.
The final chapter of this story is called You Are the Moon. It is a unique song much like the songs by teen pop sensations telling the listener that they are beautiful. It has an amazing piano backing and addresses the subject of the song as the moon, who cannot see his or her own beauty. It has beautiful imagery like, “Emerging from the gentle grace of night's unfolding arms,” and “All the light that you possess is skewed by lakes and seas. The shattered surface, so imperfect, is all that you believe.” Never have I heard a song that compares the subject to the moon, beautiful, glowing, and often taken for granted. If only we could replace the “feel good” songs of today's Top 40 radio with songs more diverse like You Are the Moon.
After listening to this album start to end, you will feel as though you have visited another world full of gardens, oceans, snow-covered land, and mysterious circuses. Its amazing what the vivid imagery in the album can do for the listener; it's almost as if you had read an entire novel in the half an hour it took to listen to this album. Every time I dream, I long to see the theatrical world of Like Vines inside my head.
Wilmington, North Carolina
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