Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Angels of Light - How I Loved You (V0)

In 1996 or some time thereabouts, Michael Rolfe Gira, one of the greatest musicians of the '90s, disbanded one of the greatest bands of the '90s, Swans. Fans everywhere were dismayed; Gira promised more live material, eventually releasing Soundtracks for the Blind (1996) and Swans Are Dead (1998).

How I Loved You serves as Gira's sophomore release following the disbandment of Swans and the formation of The Angels of Light. It seems that the work he put into Soundtracks for the Blind had much the same effect on Gira as it did on his listeners, because How I Loved You sounds, for all of Gira's authenticity and fervor, completely drained of any emotion whatsoever. His fatigue leaves Gira's voice and lyrics as a snide commentary on attachments, romances and friendships, deploring the mistakes often made from hasty decisions, and the sadness that results. How I Loved You is dedicated, it seems, to M. Gira's parents; the front and back cover of the packaging are stills of Gira's parents, whom, as inferred by the tone of this album, he must miss dearly.

How I Loved You seems to encompass the ideas of attachment and loss the same way that The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots encompassed the idea of death: Gira approaches the theme from every angle possible, exhausting every opinion and feeling that he has regarding the death of his parents, the losses he has suffered emotionally, and the promises that he has made not to repeat the same mistakes. "New York Girls, scattered crimson pearls. / You touch me like you do, you fall in love with fools," Gira sings bitterly, warning perhaps against the same disappointments that he has suffered.

Gira's music isn't harsh or emotionally draining just because it's dissonant or tonally dark. It's emotionally draining because at the end of the record, the listener realizes that they are as empty as anyone could expect to be after the experiences that Gira describes. That's the genius in How I Loved You: Gira conveys, musically and lyrically, exactly how it feels to lose someone, to have your heart broken, or to toss a shovelful of dirt onto a lacquered coffin.


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