As the seasons change and the end of the year creeps near, we’ve asked our contributors to pick their favorite lyrics of 2016 — so far.
— Brenna Ehrlich, Talkhouse Music Editor-in-Chief
“If I ever spent a night as dark as the one passed by Christ in the garden of Gethsemane/would I let my father crucify me or would I want to live selfishly?”
— Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, “The Dirt, The Bells & I,” Constant Stranger
The utilitarian sparseness of the album’s instrumentation is a stylistic match for Kinkel-Schuster’s poetry. Presented in the unassuming vehicle of few bare chords and starkly plucked guitar melodies, Constant Stranger´s lyrics present significant ideas so inconspicuously that they take you by surprise. Throughout the record, Kinkel-Schuster balances imagery of the fantastic with the bucolic, pairing a keen literary awareness with an unpretentious vocabulary that allows him to express the complex in accessible terms and explore abstract themes with illustrations from the familiar and common.
In “The Dirt, The Bells & I,” we are given a frank look into the divided mind of a speaker reconciling two competing natures, asking himself, “If I ever spent a night as dark as the one passed by Christ in the garden of Gethsemane/would I let my father crucify me or would I want to live selfishly?”
Kinkel-Schuster makes no effort to overdress the question or veil his thought in convoluted figurative speech, only offers the listener a straightforward ultimatum, a moral dilemma of character already relatable to most that is somehow made more human by the artist’s refusal to complicate his delivery. Here, the speaker employs the conversational, almost Twain-like dialect that gives Constant Stranger its uniquely perceptive quality. The uncomplicated vernacular allows Schuster to distill the loftiest concepts into two plain lines, and exhibits the minimalist poetic brilliance that characterizes the entire album.
“The Dirt, The Bells & I” perfectly communicates the most essential form of an immense quandary with the understated wisdom of a cloistered composer, echoing the same cosmic truths through a lilting drawl and achieving a similarly sacred, humble beauty.