Jealous of the Birds The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me in My Sleep

[Canvasback/ Atlantic; 2018]

Styles: confectionery indie, streaming bitter-sweet, metaphor guitar
Others: Soccer Mom, Hole, Courtney Barnett

“Musing among the vegetables?” As if what grows in earth could be set with symbols. As if those symbols (we called them words) for petals and stems could mean what the petals and stems meant, to the touch, to the earth. This is like that: to get beyond the unspeakable unknowable, we (knowingly!) wrote out metaphors. It’s a relation, of meaning to object, a sleight of heart to reve(a)l in nothing something else. Or: “You laugh’s a dandelion whirl.”

The line goes on, “From the window every color swirls/ With my blue bird heart I’m a singing girl.” Naomi Hamilton, Jealous of the Birds, writes lots like this on her new EP, The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me In My Sleep. Flowers whirl in verbiage usually reserved for bodies; bodies and their parts are plastic or animal or (in a line Clarissa Dalloway herself might wield) instrument tips: “I kiss your microphone and blame it on hormones” on the standout “Plastic Skeletons.” Figurative language is the attempt to bridge a gap by shifting the kind of atmosphere between objects. Jealous of the Birds is the attempt to render a human (the pang of need, the ache of loss, the fuck of want) amidst imagined languages (melody, verse, metaphor).

The language isn’t new, but it’s well-observed, sharply-related. Four of the five compositions here appeared on Hamilton’s 2016 full-length Parma Violets (shades of Hole, “And the sky was all violet/ I want it again, but violent, more violent”). Whether the EP’s occasion is rediscovery or recovery or redistribution remains to be heard, but Moths is most of the best songs from Parma Violets (like Patti’s Kimberly, “burst from the barn and flames in a violent violet sky”) touched up into a curt slab of indiepop, whatever that means. “Tonight I Feel Like Kafka” gets a creeping electric piano around a still-scared/in-adept slap at how we like each other, “And it scares me to think that nobody looks at me that way/ But it scares me to think that you baby, don’t look at me that way.” “Russian Doll” gets more mustard where it counts; if it’s less lo-fi, the punched-up kick-drum bumps the tempo up a few clicks to where Hamilton’s admission of “I wish I was bolder, full of red, yellow, and blue” feels a little veering, a little soured. How could we ever live up to the symbols? Stranded like dead dandelions, won’t the figurative stretch us farther from each other until we’re in wind, away apart?

The closest O’Keeffe came to Woolfe was when some caffeined editor (Marianne Moore, probably) attached O’Keeffe’s Flagpole to the preface of Woolfe’s The Lives of the Obscure in a 1925 issue of The Dial. The closest Hamilton comes to Mrs. Dalloway is a single by the same name she released last year. “Do you still cry as you pull into the drive/ Thinking ‘God, is this it —what it means to be alive?’” she sings, thinking of Virginia and Clarissa and Georgia and Courtney Love and Patti Smith too, those violet voices that are all over The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me In My Sleep. Is this it?

“She said I care too much these days/ About my place in this ball of yarn,” but maybe it’s like that flagpole? Stretching discordant before the lavender world to house Woolf’s tribute to the happy daze of days, an obscurity of everyday, pedestrian at best. “There’s not a lot that I can boast/ I water plants and make French toast”: Jealous of the Birds, under metaphor, in careful craft, extracts matter from the figurative to raise up the mundane’s ability to dailyly, cheekily, transform our days. The everyday assaults us all the time, in the pillowcase smell from an ex, in the way a brain remembers a picnic, or a tongue and some teeth sing a song. Naomi, Jealous of the Birds, flings us out of our bodies to see the color in our roots, growing every day. O’Keeffe was just moving colors around. Mrs. Dalloway was just a day. What else is there?

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