Tag Archive: music

On paper it seems like an indie cliche. It ought to be, really.

Delicately picked guitar riff, banjo instrumental punctuated with a choir of clapping hands, the beautiful mingling of (her whispy & his willow-tree) voices propped up by the delightfully meek accordion…

The thing is, it is the furthest thing imaginable from a cliche. I spent seven hours with it on loop last year (the year before?) to sustain my writing of an essay. No one can tolerate seven hours with a cliche.

See, this song is like the stranger on the street whose crinkled, warm eyes dance with hope. A knowing hope that imparts a self-forgetful smile as you keep walking.

The chorus of stomping young folk imports you into the middle of a pub of friends, old and new, voicing a familiar song you’ve never heard before. Mister Willow Tree paints vivid images in the mind’s eye. He paints with words that speak with both precision and  ambiguity of longings residing deep in the common reservoir of human experience. The shape and movement over the course of three minutes and twenty-seven seconds is perfect. Its texture is captivating. Understated, but with a twinkle in its eye.

It would seem I’ve descended into sickening hyperbole. If only I were not so sincere! In short: this song is a delight. It comes from a band whose latest EP, ‘kingdom of your own’, is an impossibly beautiful heart explosion. If only there were words for those four songs! Words are so clumsy. But suffice it to say that the progression evident in this band’s sound over the past year is so exciting!

Their name is ‘Matthew and the Atlas‘.

The song is ‘I Will Remain‘.


It’s a pretty big decision.

The classical numbers? Or modern? Pop rock? Will the grandparents be cool with that? ‘Hold Onto Hope Love’ by Amy Stroup? ‘The River’ by Anathallo? To cut or not to cut? Brooke’s ‘Love is Waiting‘? Or do the ‘baby’s kind of cheapen the vibe? Lyrics or instrumental? Slow or fast tempo?

Let’s be honest: the song choice for the wedding processional is a pretty big call.

I’ve been to my fair share of weddings; I was singing at one this morning for one of my dearest sisters from church, incidentally. I usen’t to think about weddings much at all, but the more weddings I witness, the more I find opinions forming in my subconscious.

And, you see, I’ve been listening to a friend’s EP a lot recently, and something my brother said a few months back came to mind:

“I want all of these songs played at my wedding!”

GC himself. Oozing introspective reflectiveness like a boss.

Granted, Andrew has a bit of a mancrush on Greg (Greg is really my brother’s friend; as my bro points out, I have a tendency to try to steal his friends), and he played on the EP, so has a bit of an attachment to the songs.

That said, I think he is totally right. And I’m going to tell anyone who will listen why I love the title track ‘Held back the sun’ by Greg Cooper. Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. But it’s worth a try, right?

Here are some of the lyrics:

Could I love you like the morning loves the sun?

Could I hold to you like a bullet in a gun?

Could I protect you like a banker and his fee?

Could I respect you like the surfer and the sea?

We have held back the sun for so long, for so long

Now its way will be done, will be done, will be done

Help me now

Help me now

Would I engage with you like a good film just begun?

Would I fight for you like a soldier at the Somme?

Would I race to you like to an amber traffic light?

Would I wait for you like a stockman’s horse by night?

You’re not yourself

You never were

I never saw your heart at all

I’m not myself

I never was

I never saw my heart at all

Help me now

Help me now

Part of what I love about it is that its simplicity gives each instrument such a clear voice. It feels familiar. You instantly feel at ease and comfortable with Greg’s voice, which, coupled with the sincerity of the lyrics, inclines you towards trusting him.

There’s a degree of humility to the whole song, in that he’s not gushing about painfully contrived ‘love’ or even lovesickness or unrequited love. The similes reframe these kinds of sentiments in a way that is remarkably refreshing, weaving grit and warmth, binding them together with an uncertainty (they are questions, not soppy assertions) that culminates in a cry for help in the whole thing.

And in the midst of all the unrealistic and vacuous songs about love that we wade through in the musical landscape, I am profoundly appreciative of a song that doesn’t baulk from that soppyness into a reactive cynicism, but reclaims the depth of sentiment whilst retaining one foot firmly in the wistfulness of reality, the stark solemness of reality.

And that is matched by the humble simplicity of the music. It’s not pretentious, it’s not trying to hype itself up as a softly-whispered romantic song, and that’s what I’m really drawn to.

It has melancholic undertones that speak of the painful beauty that is relationship.

I don’t actually know what Greg means by this song, just to clarify [Disclaimer]. Part of the intimacy of the bond you feel with the song is born of an authenticity that can only come from very personal experiences, no doubt. And they should remain that way. But although those experiences will remain inaccessible to the listener, their artistic derivatives are still available to having meaning attached to them by the listener’s own experiences. Which I think is great; the communal aspect of music.

There are so many things I love about this song. But I’m going to write a few more down, because that’s what I do at 1am these days, it would seem.

The steady pulse of the chord progression has a momentum that lends the song an anchored and secure feel. The build has a clarity and definition to it; it is so controlled by that underlying pulse. It seems to embody this tension between the cry of the whole self as it wrestles with the mystery that is personhood and relationship (gosh that sounds highfalutin, but it really is what I mean!), and the defensive reflex to contain emotion out of fear of the vulnerability of being known. I just love that the bridge is such an intensely raw moment for the vocals, yet it is still reigned in, ever so slightly, by that same steady pulse.

I love that the bridge opens up a side to relationship that is not neat at all. And even more so that it isn’t resolved. There are no contrived answers. It’s just a song with deeply held desires, and a deeply fractured capacity to realise those desires on one’s own.

So much music these days is so stuffed full that it feels a bit cluttered and frenetic. So I appreciate the genius it is to create something beautiful with just a simple few hues of colour. It gives you the space to see each colour far more clearly, and it gives the colours the space to speak their part more fully. Whilst I love the vibrancy and explosion of energy that comes from bands with 5 guitars and are encumbered by expanding wind sections etc etc, I have found it an unexpectedly settling experience listening to this album.

In short, it’s not a glossy song. It’s pretty real. It has shades of the messyness we all know. But the acknowledgment of those shades makes them seem more tolerable. And it makes me feel more OK with them, to know that someone else gets it, too.

Pretty much, get the album. It costs less than one meal eating out. Which is scandalous. But exploit its cheapness!

You won’t regret it.