The Kaneland Krier Music-Cast: The January Episode breakdowns

     In the latest episode of the Kaneland Krier Music-Cast, we each cover 10 of our favorite songs from the past four weeks. In this article, we’ll break down three of each of our songs lyrically and musically to take a closer look at the meanings behind them.


Kevin’s choices:


Weird Fishes / Arpeggi – Radiohead

     The song Weird Fishes / Arpeggi by Radiohead embodies a kind of awkwardness or angst that is not captured by much of the mainstream media out there. The song handles the very serious topic of the narrator wishing to take his own life, but the opening instrumentals feel warm and calm. The song opens with a simple drum groove before being joined by a bass and guitar. These three play the chord progression, and eventually, a harmonizing second guitar comes in. Soon enough, the narrator opens with echoing vocals, singing, “In the deepest ocean, the bottom of the sea, your eyes, they turn me.” Essentially, the narrator is staring into the water and feels the water staring back at him as he is tempted to go into it and abandon his life, singing, “Why should I stay here? Why should I stay?” He elaborates on these urges, thinking, “I’d be crazy not to follow. Follow where you lead. Your eyes, they turn me,” all the while the instrumentals are developing and growing louder. Eventually, a new guitar harmony joins in as he continues to sing about his desire. “Turn me into phantoms. I follow to the edge of the earth and fall off.” The narrator’s voice begins to harmonically echo through the background, and the music is reaching a climax of sound as the narrator makes the decision to follow through with his desire to take his own life. He sings, “Yeah, everybody leaves if they get the chance, and this… is my chance.” Suddenly the noise and climactic nature of the song quickly dissipate, symbolizing the end of the narrator’s mental struggle and his death. When he sings, “I get eaten by the worms and weird fishes. Picked over by the worms and weird fishes,” it’s clear his dead body is being consumed by the animals of the ocean. Suddenly the loud and climactic sound returns but in a different and minor key. Traces of the prior guitar chord progression can be heard throughout, as he sings, “Yeah I, I’ll hit the bottom and escape…I hit the bottom and escape. Escape,” which is depicting his thoughts as he continues his descent into the ocean. Note the tenses where he says, “I’ll hit,” and “I hit,” indicating that in this final line, he has finally finished his descent. Following that final line, the song dramatically cuts off, finally indicating the end of the narrator’s struggle and demise. This song is incredibly well-made musically, but looking deeper into the lyricism, it depicts a simultaneously depressing and interesting thought process of a man wishing to take his own life. The juxtaposition created by the uplifting musical tone and somber lyrics makes for a very interesting listen.


Krystal – Matt Maltese

     Krystal by Matt Maltese is one of the most emotion-filled, well-written love songs of recent times. As the song begins, all instruments are immediately playing. The song is slower, and a heavy drum groove plays in the background. A two-bar guitar phrase plays twice before Maltese enters with the opening lyric, “Krystal is a real pro. She’s a red rose. She could wreck any home. Krystal is a good host on a talk show. She could strike any pose.” Whoever Krystal is to Maltese’s character is unclear. Whether she is a former or current lover, a simple crush or something else, he very clearly has strong feelings for her, as the chorus quickly begins with him saying, “I forget if I ever loved anyone else,” twice. Maltese sings these lyrics in a high pitch and with a clearly sincere tone. Along with this style of delivery, glissando synth chords echo throughout, further harmonizing and emphasizing the power of the chorus. Returning to the second verse, Maltese sings, “K’s eyes are like first prize, these are hard times but she carries on by. Dressed nice in all weather types, she will pass by at a point in your life.” The adjustment of Maltese referring to Krystal as “K” indicates she has become relevant in his life. He is clearly in love with her and is aware that she will not remain with him for long, as he says, “She will pass by at a point in your life.” His growing awareness of how he will lose her in the future is apparent when the second chorus comes around and he sings, “I forget if I ever loved anyone else. I’m a mess and I’ll never love anyone else.” Following this chorus, the song transitions into a lyricless bridge, where Maltese’s vocals riff over a slight new chord progression. Eventually, the bridge and drums fade out, leaving only the familiar guitar riff that has been playing all song. Suddenly the drums begin to crescendo while all instruments come back in for one final, extremely emotional and powerful chorus. Here Maltese sings the now familiar chorus, only with a new line added. “I forget if I ever loved anyone else. I’m a mess and I’ll never love anyone else. I’m obsessed and I’ll never love anyone else,” Maltese sings. Throughout this chorus, Maltese has new vocal harmonizations and layers that create an incredible emotional build-up. Eventually, all the instrumentals fade away and Maltese sings, for one last time, “I forget if I ever loved anyone else.” This song perfectly encapsulates the emotions he is trying to convey, and it is most definitely a song to listen to for reflecting and being introspective.


Mrs. Magic – Strawberry Guy

     Mrs. Magic by Strawberry Guy opens with a repeating piano chord before progressing to another and being joined by drums amongst other instruments and sounds. A whistle-like melody begins to echo through the phrases, and the narrator enters with the opening lines, “Mrs. Magic to and fro, please give me one last show. Loosen my mind from within, before it starts to wear and thin.” The song depicts someone in a relationship. Whether it’s about them during or after the relationship is unclear, but the narrator expresses his difficulty in truly expressing himself beyond his chaotic mind. Following this nostalgic and solemn-sounding intro, the song transitions into a far more chaotic and regretful-sounding chorus. With the whistle-like riff still playing, the narrator sings, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing here,” depicting a sort of second-guessing and confusion. He can’t seem to truly express himself or feel understood by this “Mrs. Magic” character, so he rethinks his entire decision in being in the relationship at all. Following this chorus, the song returns to the nostalgic-sounding intro for a second verse. “Mrs. Magic Radio, give me one last chance to show. Tell you what lurks deep inside, deep inside my battered mind,” the narrator says, essentially asking Mrs. Magic for another chance to explain why he struggles to express himself in the relationship. The song re-enters the chorus, with the same lyrics, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing here,” indicating he remains unsuccessful in connecting with Mrs. Magic and continues to feel unsure of the relationship. The song then enters the bridge, where the narrator sings, “Leaving me outside. No I can’t get back in,” repeatedly, basically saying that Mrs. Magic has finally left him and the relationship has ended. The song then strips away a lot of the noise and returns to the sole piano chords from the beginning of the track, with the narrator saying, “Mrs. Magic to and fro, just let me be myself,” in a somewhat defeated tone, indicating that all he truly wants is to be happy being himself in a relationship, which he was not with Mrs. Magic. The combination of the story told by the narrator and the solemn and nostalgic sound of the song creates an incredibly immersive listening experience. 

Paige’s picks:


Salt – Alex G

     In Salt by Alex Giannasconi, or Alex G for short, Giannasconi takes the role of a narrator who is under the influence of drugs, presumedly bath salts. After a short instrumental intro, the first verse opens with Giannasoni singing, “Into my big cloud, I’m flying all the time. I’m happy.” Oftentimes, people under the influence of stimulant drugs such as bath salts feel elated or claim to have had an out-of-body experience. They may feel as if they are flying and at peace, as the narrator claims in the song. The narrator then goes on to sing, “Into your bedroom, I’m watching your backside. I’m trying.” He seems to be taking an outside view of his relationship with someone else, becoming a voyeur to the situation due to the mind-altering drugs he is taking. Throughout the first verse, a simple drum beat and chord progression on guitar is played. While the instrumentals are uncomplicated, they provide listeners with a dreamy sort of feeling while listening to the song. To add to this effect, high and low-pitched vocals are added between the first verse and the refrain of the song. In the refrain, Giannasconi repeats, “Did you hear what I said? I’ve got salt in my head,” affirming the idea that the narrator is under the influence of drugs, specifically, as the second line of the refrain and the title implies, bath salts. It seems as if he is trying to communicate with someone but cannot get his message across, as he has to ask if the subject has heard him multiple times. During these repeated lines, the beat drops away and Giannasconi’s high-pitched vocals are heard over some simple guitar playing. Different instrumentals, including light cymbal tapping, come back in between the refrain and the second verse. After the brief instrumental interlude, four ascending notes are played on an organ, and Giannasconi starts the second verse, singing, “Don’t make me hurt you.” These lyrics feel like the climax of the entire song. The once dreamy and somewhat content-sounding lyrics take a sharp turn with this line, as the narrator turns from talking about flying, feeling happy and being under the influence to threatening the subject of the song. When I first heard this part of the song, it caught my attention and surprised me, making me want to keep listening to see how the song progressed. The rest of the refrain continues with the narrator seeming to be conflicted and confused about his situation, as Giannasconi sings, “I’m happy, eyeing and tapping a wrecking ball of fear. I’m lying. Don’t take me with you, I’m happy where I am.” He seems to contradict himself, talking about “eyeing and tapping,” which likely alludes to how those under the influence of drugs often become paranoid and restless, and then goes on to say that he is happy. The song ends with a repeated outro, where Giannasconi sings in a high-pitched voice, “Today I washed my hands. I want to be alone. I want to fry.” Child-like voices can be heard in the background of the outro as the song fades out. Although Salt is instrumentally simple, this uncomplicated approach shines a spotlight on the contrasting and intriguing lyrics that make for a very complex and interesting listening experience. 


Dallas Beltway – Chat Pile

     Dallas Beltway by the noise rock band Chat Pile opens with a short drum solo, followed by the addition of guitar, feedback and a bass lick. The drums, although played throughout the whole song on an electronic kit, are somewhat industrial and fit the overall dirty sound of the whole song. The vocals come in at around one minute into the song, where lead vocalist Raygun Busch speaks the lyrics rather than sings, somewhat slurring his words to add to the overall tone. Busch says, “ Dallas. Driving the beltway. Thinking about my dad and thinking about his dad and his dad before him, thinking ‘bout how we were all raised. Thinking ‘bout- thinking ‘bout where I went wrong.” The narrator reflects on his lineage in the beginning, implying that something is wrong with him and that he may have broken a cycle within his family. He goes on to defend himself, vocalized in a hesitated and lazily-inflected tone by Busch, saying, “Okay, listen, I’m normally a reasonable guy. Listen to me, okay? You look at me, people trust me.” The narrator seems to be trying to prove a point to someone as if he had done something bad. At this point in the song, first-time listeners are not sure what the narrator has done, and these defensive words fall upon confused ears. After this, the tone changes, as he says, “I’m not that kind of person, but you wanna see what ordinary hands can do to something fragile?” Busch then repeats, “Watch me!” He increases in volume and aggressiveness as he says this phrase, building up the suspense right in the middle of the song. In a shaky voice, Busch then says, “I disgust myself. Yeah, that’s right. I know. I know I’ve done something bad. I know this is the end of the line. I know what’s in the trunk is reason enough to end my life.” At this point, listeners know that the narrator is guilty of something, yet they are not sure of what. The loud and continuous crashing of cymbals and the satisfying guitar riff in the background further build suspense and match perfectly with Busch’s voice. Then, questions are answered as the narrator groans, “There’s no forgiveness for parents who take their children’s lives, I know!” followed by repeated screams of, “You wanna see what’s in the trunk?” and “Look at it!” It becomes clear to the audience that the narrator has killed his child. When I first heard this lyric in specific, it led me to wonder whether this line was literal or figurative. From my perspective, this song could be about a man who actually murdered his child, or it could be about how parents often force their beliefs onto their kids, ‘murdering’ them in a way by turning them into hateful people as they grow up. Chat Pile is known to sing about societal issues in their songs, and this song may very well be a metaphorical way of doing just that. As the narrator talks about his family before him and how something went wrong with him, this led me to wonder if he was talking about how he turned his child into a byproduct of his hatred. The song ends with Busch saying, “Dallas, born and raised,” repeatedly over noisy and erratic guitar and drums until the song eventually comes to an end. As the song progresses, one notices that he sounds more and more unstable and his voice becomes quavery. This mirrors the breakdown of the narrator as he finally comes to terms with what he has done to his child. Whether the lyrics are literal or not, Dallas Beltway is an amazing song with a perfect mixture of both intriguing lyrics and noise rock/sludge metal instrumentalism. 


Obstacles – Syd Matters

     In Obstacles by French folk band Syd Matters, frontman and singer Jonathan Morali sings about growing older, dealing with struggles and overcoming challenges over a calming guitar riff, flutes and trumpets. In the first verse, Morali sings, “Let’s say, ‘Sunshine for everyone,’ but as far I can remember, we’ve been migratory animals, living under changing weather.” I interpret the first verse as Morali saying that although we may want to bring happiness to everyone, the weather changes and the sun will not shine all year round. Yes, the sun will shine and you will have your happier moments, but the weather will always change and you will have periods in your life where you go through changes and struggles. In the second verse, the title of the song is referenced by Morali as he continues, “Someday, we will foresee obstacles through the blizzard, through the blizzard.” What he means by this is that at some point, he will be able to see past these obstacles that stand in his way through the blizzard of life that is holding him back. After an instrumental break with high-pitched vocals, the chorus comes in with, “We played hide and seek in waterfalls, we were younger, we were younger,” being repeated throughout the song. I took this line as a reminder that even as we grow older, it is important to remember that we were once carefree and fun-loving children. After the chorus, Morali says once more, “Someday, we will foresee obstacles through the blizzard, through the blizzard,” concluding the song. Obstacles is a relatively simple song, but I find it to be calming and inspiring. The main reason I enjoy this song is that it was featured in my favorite video game, Life is Strange, a game where main characters Max Caulfield and Chloe Price go through rough patches in their relationship and eventually have to face major decisions and challenges as they attempt to save their town. Obstacles plays in one of the final scenes of the game, where one of the characters has to make a major sacrifice to save someone she cares about. The song adds a lot of emotion to the scene in Life is Strange, and I always associate it with when I first completed the game years back. With this connection alongside the calming nature of the song, Obstacles has become one of my most listened-to songs recently.