Laura Viers has carved out her own space in the girl-with-guitar
universe by creating her very own universe. She doesn't just put her
thoughts and feelings to music, she wraps them in images of mermaids and white spider stars; instead of tears falling from her eyes, there
are galaxies. But the songs don't float off into space; the strumming
guitars and subtle electronic effects give the fantastic lyrics an
earthy feel, rather than lifting them into the air.
A muted disc like Year of Meteors
could get dull. Viers keeps listeners at a distance, delivering her tales in a voice that's sometimes closer to
speaking than singing. But there are several moments where her voice
fills with emotion and reaches for a melody.
She also manages to keep
her disc lively with a mix of styles. She visits the twang of backwoods
Americana, uses an organ and xylophone to give it swing, occasionally
gives us some feedback, and, as a lot of singer/songwriters tend to do,
she often circles back to folky guitar-strumming and making one-syllable
words into three-syllable words. She sounds like a cross between Liz
Phair (in her first incarnation) and Mary Timony. Her voice is a bit
like Phair's, and her imagination is like Timony's. Both Viers and
Timony take us into a dreamy world of fairytale creatures, mostly
lovely but sometimes scary.
Floating and flying play a dominant role in Viers' tales. Nearly every
song refers to water, and a lack of gravity. But the two standout tracks
are the ones that take us into the depths of the earth. In "Spelunking,"
Viers asks what would happen if she took her lover into the caverns of
her heart: "Would you light the lamp, dear? …. And see fish without
eyes/ Bats with their heads hanging down towards the ground. Would you
still come around?" The guitar strumming is lilting and sweet. She goes
on to say, "I believe in you/ In the honesty in your eyes/ Even when I'm
sloshing in the muck of my demise/ A large part of me is tied to the
lamplight in your eyes." These are the lyrics that stick with me now,
the way something from L7 or Hole might have stuck with me a decade ago.
I've sloshed in the muck of my demise once or twice. On a bad day, it's
a comfort to think that I, too, can look beyond it to the lamplight in
my someone's eyes.
"Galaxies" goes from outer space to the bottom of the sea. Viers' girly
voice sings about galaxies as an electronic warbling adds a sci-fi feel
to the music. There's a video for the song on Nonesuch's Laura Viers Web
that's worth checking out. The images are just as magical and
playful as the lyrics. When Viers sings "When we dance/ Eels and sea
grass … [sigh] … float on by/ I'm 10,000 leagues beneath the sea," we see
her dancing with a deep-sea diver, hose coming out of his suit and a big
metal fishbowl-like helmet on his head. They're in the living room of a
house that we can tell from the windows is under the sea. And all
around them are pretty little glass jars to catch the drops of water
seeping in. Kisses that cause a floating sensation have been put to
music before; the literal image of a couple dancing 10,000 leagues under
the sea captures the magic and mystery of romance, but does so with a wink.
A melodic mix of low-fi guitar-strumming and snarling fuzz and feedback
lead us to "Rialto." The effects lend menace to Viers' vivid
description of sailors with their pressed pants and shiny shoes as
strapping but deranged from being too long at sea. They end up at the
beach, watching a child "dripping castles on the sand," and buoys toss
in the distance. They're trying to capture a glimpse of their own
youths. Viers, it seems, hasn't lost sight of hers. She sings in each
chorus, "I can still go there."
My daughter, who is still there, has taken a liking to this CD. She
knows it as the one that has "mermaid" as the very first word. She
listens to it as she drifts off to sleep at night. And as much as I
liked her last favorite, the Cheetah Girls and their songs about
independent girls, I like even better that she takes poetic images of
"cool water (in surround sound)," "feather cloud formations" and
mermaids shimmering in the waves off to her dreams with her.