It’s been more than two weeks since the US election by now, and I’m going to acknowledge this event best by not acknowledging it much at all. Apart from the occasional nightmarish dream like the one I had this morning, where my father had somehow merged with the meglomaniacal president elect and the two were one person, I’m doing just “fine.”
The last few days I’ve been trying to get over the die-hard remnants of a cold I caught while supposedly “relaxing” in Los Angeles four weeks ago. The word in quotation marks – tartly contrarian – is there in its glory because I only had four days to spare, two of them spent on airplanes. The resulting forty-eight hours between wheels-down and wheels-up was a memorable blast, don’t get me wrong, but it was not by definition of the word, relaxing.
Why so much sarcasm suspended between inverted commas, you ask? It’s been a crazy month, I say, and the events of my last thirty days have been somehow intertwined with my neighbours south of forty-nine, the US and A.
The high points literally involved height – being invited to a penthouse Halloween shindig in Hollywood by a pal I’ll call “Natalia.” Perched atop the W Hotel I ate, drank, and otherwise made merry while stumbling around a puppy-petting station staffed by Afro-Samurai and tracking down the rest of my squad, a drunken panda posse comprised mostly of DJs and editors from the Writers Guild of America. Later, while engaging in my favorite lethal hobby of smoking real cigarettes, I was mobbed by a duo of twin blonde Swedes wearing Venetian masks, who desperately wanted
to meet me a smoke, and were willing to titillate me with close-quarters small talk and consensual … selfies. What a night.
What of the low points? Well, apart from the Great Social Event That Shall Not be Named that followed on November 8th, it’s really just one thing: the near-certain prospects of looming unemployment from American Apparel whose very headquarters I had just visited in The City of Angels, hoping to rub some shoulders and lay the groundwork for an eventual promotion. How ironic and pointless that all seems now.
So what a better premise than to present to you Big Snippet’s first music review? The banter involving Swedes, America, and angst wasn’t just a tangent; it’s the theme of what we’re going to be listening to.
Artist: First Aid Kit | Album: America | Song: My Silver Lining
Trigger warning, I’m not a big fan of country music. That disclaimer aside, who’d have thunk that country music could actually be bearable, if it just wasn’t American? And if wasn’t American, then what would it be?
A while back, I was dining in my local favorite burger lounge, Bin 4, which is notable for great Manhattan martinis, half-price everything after nine, and usually decent piped-in music. Behold, an odd medley began to play, what sounded like a late seventies Austin City Limits ballad suspended from electropop synth hooks, and hey, it actually worked.
Fighting over the noise of the crowd and the clatter of cutlery, I tried unsuccessfully three times to Shazam the name of the tune; just as the final bars were playing, I managed to snag some info: it was My Silver Lining by First Aid Kit, the band belonging to Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg. While my app wasn’t smart enough to tell me what I was hearing was the Lil Strong remix (listen here) – hence the synth heavy overdub, which isn’t present in the equally good original – I did manage to realize the song had a terrific music video as well:
If you like abstract imagery with plenty of overlaid visuals, you’ll get a blast from this one. It reminds me in many ways of a less chilling take on the sepia-tinged, road-trip-in-a-desert theme we saw in 2008’s Ghosts (here) from my other favorite ensemble, Ladytron.
Whereas in Ghosts we had a slasher-slash-horror film vibe going on (complete with French maid outfits, rampant rabbits, and a Triumph Stag sports car), the video for Silver Lining eschews (most) edginess for a glamourous trip through LA (surprise!), in a ghost-driven convertible while Klara and Johanna sing in the backseat. Later, the girls wander through a mansion that looks like it could have starred in the Man From UNCLE, avoiding walls that close in on them, lightning storms emanating from oil paintings, and porcelain dishes randomly smashing on the floor – perhaps a metaphor for the pent-up angst that seems to hide beneath the heavy eyeliner and perfect hair of our songstresses. A tete-a-tete loveseat on a turntable even makes a cameo, for good measure.
Lyrically, My Silver Lining is somewhat predictable, following the established formula of self-reflection, dread and sadness, before reaching an ultimate resolution to endure, that you’ve probably heard somewhere before. Only, it’s the wording though, that makes this duo’s take on the sentiment a little more original. Lines like “waking up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon,” seem like a retelling of a Western fable, in only slightly more modern realms. In this wild west, horse-drawn buggies have been replaced with Mercedes Benz 300SEs, and petticoats have yielded to minidresses.
The most memorable verse? “These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free.” Sound familiar to you? It does to me, like a woeful concession to Jean De La Fontaine and his musings about how a “person often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it” (a quote also featured in the underrated 2009 thriller, The International, which I dust off a least once a year to re-watch).
All in all, whether you prefer the original or remix, My Silver Lining is truly an amazing take on the contemporary country ballad, only it’s from a country where you’d least expect it – Sweden. While the rest of the album (titled America) is less memorable than the single in my opinion, I still highly recommended trying it on the merit of how well produced it is for a genre piece.
PS – on rewatching the music video for Ladytron’s Ghosts, I see now that their car is ghost-driven (no pun intended) as well. What the hell is up with these cars that drive themselves? I’ll never know.