Monday, February 29, 2016

Music Love: "Up!" by The Black and White Years

I haven’t fallen in love with any new music lately, so, in order to continue this series, I decided to pull some past loves out of my archive.

A few years ago, when I lived in Austin, I belonged to an excellent writing group (Sit Down, Shut Up, and Write, if you’re curious) that met regularly in a couple of different coffeeshops around town. Since I participated in this group 2-3 times per week, I came to know many of the baristas at said coffeeshops. One of those baristas was (at the time) dating the drummer of The Black and White Years. It was she who gave me two of their albums, Nursery Myths and Patterns.

For at least a year, I listened to these albums almost non-stop. In fact, they often played in the background while I wrote. Later, I would come to also greatly enjoy their most recent album, Strange Figurines. When I was considering which song to post on my blog, it was a toss up between “Up!” (from Patterns) and “Embraces” (from Strange Figurines). Ultimately, I decided on “Up!” because I prefer its lyrics, which are like poetry. (“Embraces” is a song to enjoy more for the amusement factor; it’s quite funny if you have a dark sense of humor.)

The Black and White Years are a touch more quirky (and a lot more electronic) than I normally go for. Also, I can’t say that lead singer Scott Butler has my favorite voice ever. However, their music is fun and different. Typically, their songs have a good beat. They cover a range of topics. Honestly, when was the last time a band you listened to had a song dedicated to modern science? By far, however, the strength of this band is in the lyrics.

“Up!” sucks you in with that gut-punch opening line, “Wake up, it’s morning, as pretty and pitiless as it ever was.” I was sold the second I heard those words. Later in the song, when he says, “I do this on my own. I cannot continue to be your flesh yo-yo. I must face it alone, like the men in my family have done,” that really resonated with me. It’s such a simple yet effective commentary on the state of manhood in American culture. But my favorite part, what I love to sing along to, comes at the end, “What we don’t know wont’s hurt us. What we don’t know won’t keep us up at night . . . What you don’t know won’t hurt you. What you don’t know won’t have you terrified.” So untrue, and yet a desperate hope that I think we all share.

There is no official video for this song. I’ve linked the track, but I recommend checking out the live video on YouTube. The performance is meh but it’s amusing to discover that the band members look pretty much like you’d expect them to.

While you’re at it, give The Black and White Years a chance. It’s a great band that hasn’t gotten nearly the kind of recognition it deserves.


Patricia said...

I like the amount of "pep" in the song, especially when contrasted with the lyrics. I also really like the story of how you were introduced to this group.

balyien said...

Man, do I miss Austin sometimes. I miss that writing group and I miss those coffee shops and I miss the food and I miss the music. Such a great scene for music!