Friday, July 04, 2008

emmy the great's 'canopies and grapes'

I love break up songs, always have, so much so that I've written tons of them during the happiest of relationships, always finding the raw emotion and mourning a fascinating thing to write about, from whichever side of the break-up fence you're looking. Today my favourite break-up song is 'Canopies and Grapes', by the impossibly great, er, Emmy The Great.

I love how it oscillates between pop culture references and declarations of despair, and I love it how it's funny one minute and tragic the next. Having taken in references to S Club 7 and Friends in the first verse, Emmy goes on to sing, in her slight but beautiful voice:

"Later on, me and a bottle will hook up to have some fun
Then I'll call your house at 12 to let you know that I’m drunk
Say I'm sorry Mr C, I was just looking for your son,
How are you incidentally? Do you know if he's out alone?
There was this book he leant to me something like seven months ago
I'm gonna burn it in the street, be so kind as to let him know...
... That I'm dealing with this badly."

One of the wonderful thing about Emmy's songs are how revealing they are; she always ends up telling you more than she needs to, giving away too much about her vulnerability, in just the way we all do sometimes. I remember a period about two or three years ago when I had a month of just being horribly overcome by emotion generally, so much so that it seemed that every night I was telling a near-stranger something personal in an overwrought voice in a busy pub, acting completely without self-control. It didn't last long but some of Emmy's songs remind me of it.

And she's just as good at constructing the internal conversations, because the dialogue with the one you've lost so rarely stops at the break-up point. Having reeled off a list of bands she's been listening to get through it, she confesses:

"And it's getting much too late to give back your Magnetic Fields EP...
Can I keep it? By my pillow?
Fucking loved it.
How I'd love to tell to tell you so."

Her lyrics aren't just conversational, too, as the many wonderful lines in her songs attest. She's one of those writers capable of dropping brilliant lines in to her songs in a constantly surprising way. It's done better elsewhere in her material, in fact – try her devastating pay-off in 'The City Song'; "They pulled a human from my waist / It had your mouth, it had your face / I would have kept it if I'd stayed" – but as 'Canopies and Grapes' draws to a close there's a line that sticks in my memory, which for the last few days has been dancing around my head. Here it is:

"When I get to sleep I'll dream again of canopies and grapes,
And wake shaking from the knowledge that the mattress holds your shape"

Here's Emmy's myspace. If you go here, you can download 'Canopies and Grapes'.

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