A Guide to Common Holly’s When I say to you Black Lightning

Brigitte Naggar walks us track-by-track through her new album.

“Central Booking”
This is the first song we recorded off the album. I wonder if we intuitively started with it because it felt like an opener. Everything felt so fresh when we were working on this one, a brand new set of tools! Also, prize-winner for most vocal takes; this was a hard one.

“Joshua Snakes”
Honestly I have no idea where this song came from. It is a whacked-out flute nightmare. Thanks for listening.

“You Dance”
This song used to have a first verse. We removed the vocals and turned the first 30 seconds into an extended instrumental intro. Then when I got on the drums, for some reason a QuestLove beat came out, which was really weird, but I think it grooves it up nice. Now I think it’s one of my favorite songs on the album, and it’s definitely the most fun to play live.

This one was meant to be about 30 seconds long, but my manager wanted me to draw out the tragic experience and make it a full song, so you can blame him for your lingering sadness.

I think this is my favorite track; it feels most comprehensive and finished to me. There used to be a Linkin Park-style electronic beat over the middle section. It was a big decision to get rid of it. I hope to get to release that version someday too — let the people choose, y’know?

“Little Down”
A reprieve, phew. The album is so intense up to this point.

“I Try”
I will be disappointed if no one makes a trap remix of this bad boy.

“It’s Not Real”
This song is about something different each time I perform it; I like that it is changeable that way. 

“Crazy Ok”
When I had first sent it to my producer, this one was meant more as a b-sides joke than anything else. Then somehow it felt right to include it on the album. Deciding on the levels for the second half was an annoyingly meticulous process — we call that part the “car crash” section, because that’s the part where you crash your car if you’re listening to the album on the road. We used “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem as a reference.

(Photo Credit: left, Alex Apostolidis)

Holding fast to the emotional honesty of Playing House (2017), Common Holly’s sophomore record, When I say to you Black Lightning is a look outward; an exploration of the ways in which we all experience pain, fear, and self-delusion, and how we can learn to confront those feelings with boldness.

The record is more experimental than Brigitte Naggar’s debut. It is rougher, looser, louder and more atonal. It feels edgy, but still kind. WISTYBL ditches fear without losing vulnerability, and trades in sadness for the healing powers of anger, and the strength of observing, recognizing and confronting. Through its 9 labyrinthian yet catchy tracks, shaped sonically by the seriously unique visions of Devon Bate, Hamish Mitchell, and Naggar herself, the album observes the complexities of mental health, the precarity of life, and the challenges of finding strength in the face of grave misunderstanding. 

(Photo Credit: Alex Apostolidis)