7/23/17: Offa Rex, Lana Del Rey, Tyler, The Creator

What a great week for love songs!

Indie rock icons, The Decemberists, teamed up with British singer Olivia Chaney to become Offa Rex, a group dedicated to recreating folk classics. Lana Del Rey finally broke away from her sad boys who “live in shades of blue,” and abusive partners who call her poison, and found a loyal musician. Tyler, The Creator somehow matured more in the last two years than in the previous eight, and found peace with who he loves along the way. So grab your summer fling, find some shade, and spend your afternoon dozing off to these songs:

Offa Rex – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Olivia Chaney’s voice flutters and floats so beautifully that accompaniment is barely necessary. And on “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” it is barely given. Instead, Chaney sweetly guides a lone harmonium through her rendition of Ewan MacColl’s 1957 folk classic. The song has been covered dozens of times, most famously by Roberta Flack, but Offa Rex’s version provides an entirely new perspective. While other performances play off the jolting, irresistible early stages of love, Chaney sings from a place of experience. When she sings, “The first time ever I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes,” she is not excited or madly in love. She is simply content. Many years have passed, and she still remembers the joy she felt the first time she laid eyes on her love. And she’s in awe that the feeling persists. It is more of a reflective piece on the wonders of long-term love than a romantic tune about love’s beginnings. That distinction (plus the mesmerizing harmonium) sets it apart from other cover attempts.

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” is just one of many gems on Offa Rex’s Queen of Hearts. The Decemberists modernize instrumentals spanning centuries of British folk music while Olivia Chaney masterfully flows through melody after melody. Highlights include Chaney’s vocals on the title song, and the heartbreaking rock remake, “Sheepcrook and Black Dog.”

Lana Del Rey ft. A$AP Rocky – Groupie Love

Lana Del Rey is smiling on the cover of her latest album, Lust for Life – like actually smiling! And she even looks sincere! The contrast between Lust for Life and her previous albums, Honeymoon, Ultraviolence, and Born To Die is stunning. Yet, the style of music is the same as the Lana we’ve loved for years. Only now, instead of singing about abusive boyfriends and sad summers, she’s singing about dancing our way through the Trump era, and learning to change for the better. She even begins the album with a song that states, “It’s enough to be young and in love.” I can’t imagine those words from 2014 Lana, but I welcome the evolution. Throughout the album, she remains lighthearted without sacrificing the mystery and flow that make her sound so distinctive.

On “Groupie Love,” the contrast between past and present Lana reaches its peak. In the song, Lana Del Rey is a groupie and her boyfriend is a star. There’s obviously a power dynamic at work here, but Lana doesn’t let it bother her. Being a groupie – and especially being the “chosen” groupie – sounds incredibly difficult. Watching hordes of fans drool over your boy while you blend in with the crowd would make almost anyone uneasy, especially Lana, who has made a living off emotions like jealousy and anguish. Surprisingly though, Lana brushes off the crowd, and sings “It’s so sweet singing to the beat when I know that you’re doing it all for me.”

There is no evident stress in her voice or her lyrics as she describes her uncommon relationship. On the contrary, there is bliss. “This is my life/You by my side/Key lime, and perfume, and festivals,” she sings adoringly to her boyfriend. “Groupie Love” is Lana finding bliss in situations she would have previously found stressful. Her transformation into Lust for Life” is beautiful. In her words, “It’s like magic, babe. Isn’t life wonderful?”

Tyler, The Creator – See You Again

“Can I get a kiss?/And can you make it last forever?/I said I’m ‘bout to go to war/I don’t know if I’ma see you again.”

Kali Uchis sings the painful chorus in Tyler, The Creator’s “See You Again,” his favorite song off his new album Flower Boy (often advertised as Scum Fuck Flower Boy). From the beginning of the song, it’s clear that that Tyler, The Creator won’t see his lover again since he only exists in Tyler’s dreams. Without a real-life partner, Tyler agonizes over wanting to stay asleep with his dream man, but needing to face the real world. The result is a beautiful, strained song about longing.

From the honest and heartfelt concessions Tyler would make for his dream man (“I’d give up my bakery to have a piece of your pie”) to the well-timed trumpet outro, “See You Again” is a lovely piece of art amid an impressively diverse and sincere album. Like Lana Del Rey, Tyler’s progression over the last couple years has me thirsting for more.

Have a lovely week, everyone!

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