One of the main reasons music is such an important part of my life is that it can be made to reflect any number of emotions, situations or states a person may be in. Even just as a listener, you have the power to scour your music library and find that one perfect album, whether it’s a celebratory anthem or somber hymn of loss. Japandroids wrote a triumphant song that speaks to a generation in The Night of Wine and Roses, while Elliott Smith’s song I Better Be Quiet Now reaches the deepest recesses of emotional toil and loneliness. Although drastically different, I love each song for the same reason and they represent aspects of who I am and things I have experienced in different ways. And then there’s Graceland by Paul Simon, which is an album I love but have no idea what he is talking about.
On her sophomore album This is How We Swim, Lisa Bozikovic takes those emotions and experiences and transposes them to a metaphor in our natural environment: water. It can be transformed into different states, molded into beautiful sculptures or formed into violent waves that consume us. This motif of water and transformation melds beautifully with music – like the transformations we go through in life, water molds itself to its environment and is in constant flux. The way she incorporates instrumentation into her songs also makes the listener feel surrounded by it. The opening track Light Years is an example of this; dreamy undertones and soft harmonies give the sense that you’re sitting in the sand watching the waves approach your feet.
This is How We Swim is also full of references to water. Lisa completed a residency on Toronto Island, which surely influenced her decision to make H2O a central character on the album. I enjoy that she doesn’t try and secretly attempt to include the symbol of water into her songs. Rather, the theme helps define the entire thing and accentuates the emotion she is putting into song – which can be an excellent technique to translating thoughts and experiences (often painful) into music. In this sense, the album is a complete package. You are taken on a little journey from song to song (not by boat thought, you have to swim) and no track feels out of place.
Her voice is distinct, soft and dynamic. A stand-out points on the album for me are in the title track pre-chorus:
Again and again you do tell me, That this is not your time for love
You say there’s nothing inside me to give you, So run run run run run
And I just don’t know how to hear you, When you say this is not your time for love
For in these arms I find such comfort, And I’d rather swim than run
To me these lyrics solidified my thoughts that this album was a true expression of that which lies buried deep within. The second bit is a reply to the first, each sung with hopelessness in her voice. This melancholy tone that she touches upon at a few points on the album is an excellent contrast to the points when she sings beautifully. Nowhere on the album is this more evident than in the short, yet powerful song Into the Waves – one gets the sense that she’s floating away from shore and giving up on all that she used to know. The control and expression of her voice really demonstrate her incredible musicianship.
In a sea full of little singer/songwriter fishes, Lisa Bozikovic stands out as a Nemo. The way in which she tells a story using symbols is not only effective, but unique too. This is How We Swim is great accomplishment, and will fit in perfectly between Japandroids and Elliott Smith in my CD collection.
Be sure to see Lisa and Kite Hill play at The Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec on October 18th alongside Kim Barlow and Blue Hibou.