Reminder: Behind the Hoots is a collaborative project in which we discuss our favourite lyrics of the month in question. If you’d like to contribute to future Behind the Hoots roundups, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniela Andrade – “Digital Age” (Lyrics by Daniela Andrade)
Relationships in the digital age are more complicated than ever. It doesn’t matter the distance between partners because we have countless ways to keep in touch. But at the same time as we fantasize about all the possibilities of our online selves, as Andrade does in this track, we lose the physical connection of two people together in the same room.
Two Jar Grind – “Idleness” (Lyrics by James Brown)
I’m good at letting problems pile up for way too long,
And I’m good at faking it and pretending I’m pretty strong.
And I’m not so bad at turning dark thoughts into song,
But I’m not good at admitting that I’m wrong.
There’s a strong sense of catharsis on the debut from Ottawa folk-punks Two Jar Grind. Their acoustic instruments are a soft edge around their shouted vocals. They’re angry at themselves and maybe even a little regretful, and “Idleness” shows them being remarkably candid and summarizing how much we as humans tend to blame others for our problems. We’ll pretend they don’t exist, we’ll pretend they don’t hurt us, we’ll “deal” with it by putting it into song, but ultimately, we won’t own up to them. Bonus points for the modesty in the third line by changing “And I’m good at” to “And I’m not so bad at.”
Clara Engel – “What Should We Leave for the Monster Tonight” (Lyrics by Clara Engel)
make me a home in a whale’s jawbone
beached centuries ago
all my songs are fossils
all my words are so old
I love a set of lyrics that are a bit of a puzzle to work out. Such is the case with the song “What Should We Leave for the Monster Tonight?” by the folk noir artist Clara Engel. The words are intriguingly mysterious. Who or what is the “monster” being referred to? Naturally, you have to dig through the rest of the lyrics to try and sort it all out.
I get my first clue with the couplet, “out of waste bodies rise/out of flesh nectars bloom”. We must be talking about the cyclical nature of life – how things die, decompose and provide food for future life. This interpretation makes sense of the highlighted passage above. Allegorically, the narrator makes a home from a dead whale’s jawbone. It symbolizes how we make our lives from the things that have gone before. That even applies to our words and our songs. Nothing is ever completely new – it is recycled from that which has existed before.
There are more cryptic passages in Engels words to this song – passages that I have yet to unravel. That’s OK with me, really. Sometimes the mystery is more fun than the revelation.
– Mark Anthony Brennan
Tegan and Sara – “Stop Desire” (Lyrics by Tegan and Sara Quin)
I played it cool and then I overdressed it.
The little games you play in a relationship are endless and destructive. (As Taylor Swift asks, “Love’s a game, do you want to play?”) “If I text my crush back right away, will I seem too desperate?” “If they like my profile picture do they like me?” “Are we dating or just hanging out?” In “Stop Desire,” another high-gloss pop track from Tegan & Sara, we hear Tegan trying to be chill in the face uncontrollable desire. Instead of being the emotionally vacant cool girl (words taken from Alana Massey’s brilliant “Against Chill”), Tegan throws her hands-up and says everything she wants out of this potential relationship: “Get me, feel me, want me, like me, love me, need me.” “I played it cool and then I overdressed it,” she admits feeling the temperature rise but having little regrets about it.
– Laura Stanley