THE PROCESS OF WEEDING OUT with Ali Marks
Every once and a while an album comes along that completely changes my perspective. The first time I heard the Cranberries, the Fleet Foxes, My Bloody Valentine, the Pixies my world was changed. Something about the way they manipulated and created sound waves seemed so different, so novel, so interesting. The absolute first album that changed how I listened to music, that fell completely and irrevocably in love with, was Tigerlily, Natalie Merchant’s first solo effort (previously the front woman of 10,000 Maniacs). At the precocious age of 10 I was blasting her music in my room from my treasured CD player, singing along to the sad, sad lyrics, totally unaware of what I was singing.
How I happened upon this album takes a bit of back story: Up until junior high I only really listened to the music my parents played… which in retrospect was pretty cool. These days I’d take not knowing the lyrics to every *nsync song for my strange education of Brian Eno, David Byrne, Morrisey, REM, XTC, the Violent Femmes, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Genisis, the Pretenders (the list goes on). But I digress, what I’m trying to say is that though I heard the occasional pop song, I wasn’t exposed to popular music until I found Fall Out Boy and Avril Lavigne in 8th grade. Instead I listed to whatever my parents put on. Which led me to my first true love.
If you don’t know Tigerlily is a pretty solemn choice of music at any age, let alone at 10. It is characterized by piano and acoustic guitar heavy tracks, slow tempos, and minor keys. Merchant’s voice soars over the instrumentals creating a delicate and powerful sound. She tackles subjects like River Pheonix’s death (“River”), the death of a spouse (“My Beloved Wife”), and broken dreams (“San Andreas Fault”). How all this sadness captured the soul of a seemingly well adjusted, overachieving child is beyond me. But to this day the music still speaks to me. Sure it reminds me of myself over a decade ago but it also holds up on it’s own. Something about the album, its beauty, its haunting yet peaceful sound, still amazes me, still captivates me. After all these years, the beauty and the sadness still send a shiver up my spine.