Contemporary music is often a marriage, or civil partnership if you will, of words and music. And, much like relationships, we expect things to go a certain way for it to be good. It’s not far fetched to assume that the contemporary listener has been trained to hear melodies work on top of chord structures and precussion. I can’t think of much modern popular music not hinging on 4/4 time (just try imagining electronic music outside of 4/4, really), drums, and the-same-old-chord progressions. Escaping convention takes more than just an active search, it needs willingness to jump in the deep end.
Inara George’s 2008 release, An Invitation, really is that: an invitation into a baroque pop world of Inara’s soothing voice and the orchestral arrangements of music legend Van Dyke Parks. To make an esoteric yet ideal reference, I compare it to a late-season Darjeeling: a strong flavor lusted by some yet unknown by many. Inara sings poetry instead of lyrics, gently crooning about a relationship between a man and woman from both perspectives. “Now I am the man / a grain of sand / I beg your time, I really want it. I can break my heart / before we start,” she sings. The arrangements of strings and winds flitter like the hearts in the song, unable to settle on one theme, complementing and counterpointing every word. As personal as the song is, the relationship of chanteuse and conductor is apparent and easy to hear, a real duet.