It’s the plain singing punctuated by bursts of plaintive wailing. It’s the bare instrumentation that’s never barren. It’s skippy jangle crossed with snappy jingle. It’s Yea-Ming and The Rumours in top form.
Only love can break your heart, Neil Young famously crowed. Written during his Laurel Canyon years, the atmosphere was then rife with a sunny optimism befitting the locale’s climes. Geography isn’t everything, sure, but it’s very much something, especially when propped against a diorama of socio-political circumstances and an era’s distinct textures.
In other words: a place, a time, a feeling.
Jackson Browne came up in that same scene, and he was something else, too: earnest, elegant, effervescent. But when he penned “These Days” for Nico to sing for the latter’s Chelsea Girl, his already-moody piece was made even more mournful, elegiac. Nico lent the tune a dimension of quiet-New-Yorker Byronism, her lamenting pipework simmering like a good idea.
This happy-sad tango permeates much of the music of Yea-Ming and The Rumours. It’s the plain singing punctuated by bursts of plaintive wailing. It’s the bare instrumentation that’s never barren. It’s skippy jangle crossed with snappy jingle. Even a cursory spin of their 2016 debut I Will Make You Mine—preceded by their 2015 Lilystars debut “Sign on My Window”—will tell you as much: Yea-Ming Chen and her friends make music not so much to wallow and despair in, but to spend the aftermath of a catastrophe by.
It’s indie-folk/alt-country for people with both ironic detachment and unapologetic retromania—and may I just say we are legion—for whom Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is required listening, but who can also find humor in gutter-level, shitpost-variety memes on heartbreak.
Their forthcoming new record So, Bird… promises to be “a confessional map of the landscape of heartbreak” which sees the band “swing, shimmer, and whisper through a dystopian valentine,” as scribe Stefanie Kalem wrote in a release. The first track off the album, “Oh Sweet Mother,” drops today, and it’s a sumptuous bite-size taste of things to come.
Lyrically, Yea-Ming says, “OSM” hints at “being haunted by past mistakes and the regret that can suddenly, out of nowhere, feel so clear.” A last-minute addition to the record, the singer confesses to initially wanting to break new ground, and how familiar instincts triumphed in the end instead. “I was rebelling against that identity search, and that pressure I was putting on myself. So, you could say this song was an attempt to go back to basics by doing what came easy,” she says in a statement.
That was mighty modest of her, but we at Lilystars HQ all agree it’s a thing of utter beauty.
Give “Oh Sweet Mother” a listen today. You may also check out the advance video for it below.
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