Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Clare and the Reasons: Arrow

Written by Brady Walker
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In "Photograph," one of the later songs on Arrow, sophomore effort from Clare and the Reasons, Clare Manchon sings over and over, "She didn't want to say goodbye." This is the sentiment that repeats throughout the album: a vulnerable wistfulness and an unwillingness to let go. It's a charmingly hummable album with very few surprises along the way, and the music itself induces nostalgia for the heyday of harmless pop and jazz standards. It's lovely but lacks the tension and release of a truly satisfying album. For the most part, it's simply a very pleasant experience.
In "Photograph," one of the later songs on Arrow, sophomore effort from Clare and the Reasons, Clare Manchon sings over and over, "She didn't want to say goodbye." This is the sentiment that repeats throughout the album: a vulnerable wistfulness and an unwillingness to let go. It's a charmingly hummable album with very few surprises along the way, and the music itself induces nostalgia for the heyday of harmless pop and jazz standards. It's lovely but lacks the tension and release of a truly satisfying album. For the most part, it's simply a very pleasant experience.

Arrow kicks off with "All the Wine," which could easily be used to lure someone into lounging around and picnicing the day away. It starts out with "We've got all the wine / The weather's fine / Let's turn this bad day right around to good," though there's nothing to indicate why the day was bad to begin with, because according to all the evidence, things have been peachy except for the "Our money's shot" line, immediately followed with a dash of the dominating optimism: "But love is long," whatever that means.

Even the tale of public vulnerability on "Ooh You Hurt Me So" is lush and happy. One could see oneself singing it in that very same breezy field of sunflowers. "Something seems appealing in the lost and found where we all come from, wouldn't you agree?" is a charming line about being cast off by a lover followed by a catchy whistling solo as though being "hurt so" actually meant being handed a lightly chilled glass of wine on a warm spring day.

The mellifluously, if not secretively sung ending: "Ooh, you hurt me so / I would never tell," is the crux of the song that reveals that the person singing is being hurt by someone who isn’t even aware of their misdeeds, and even if they are, they're not being confronted about it. Like the rest of the album, the narrator of the song shies away from conflict with the present so she can spend her time grasping at the loveliness of the past.

Though it does not ever use the word "fly," but instead the line, "Keep your back pressed to the sun," "Our Team Is Grand" adds to a long and unnecessary legacy of songs about flying. This song is probably the most structurally complex of the album, starting with metronomic, subtle percussion under cello moans, then lifting up with a burst of strings, then changing face into a straightforward chorus of pulsing horns where it becomes obvious that there is some substance riding under the seemingly simple pop songs.
 
"You Got Time" has a similar lyrical theme as "Ooh You Hurt Me So," only it seems to pass into a universality wherein all pretty-voiced girls are giving all cold, lying men the chance to make up for themselves. I do have to say that the chorus, just a spare and beautiful repetition of "You've got time," is both pretty uplifting and disquieting at the same time.

"Mellifera" is simply a really good song. It's the one major source of tension in the album as a whole, basically just with a relative fast pace mimicking workaday toil through the metaphor of bees (overused, yes, but effective), mellifera being a species of bee. There is, of course, none of that humdrum capitalist fatalism one might expect from a song about worker bees, but rather just a gleeful chugging along. "Murder, They Want Murder" is the other song beside "Mellifera" that is not a love song. It basically tells a Rear Window type of story, only it takes place in a small town and includes hints of gossip and more boring, suburban intrigues, the whole time keeping up a bouncy pace and lovely harmonies.

The pure easy listenability of this album is a huge draw. The popness of the pop songs is perfectly hewn, and the orchestration is complex enough to make it interesting, but subtle and lush enough not to muddle things and get in the way of Manchon's crisp vocals. The songs seem like vehicles for the orchestrations rather than the opposite, though the strength of the latter makes Arrow worth a few close listens.

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