Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Arms Up High” by Chantal Acda from the 2013 album Let Your Hands Be My Guide on Gizeh Records.
Carefully surrounding herself with a gifted circle of musicians on her latest album, Dutch artist Chantal Acda explores “power revealed through vulnerability” in her music. This calm forcefulness is elegantly portrayed in the single “Arms Up High” from Acda’s fourth album. The song is best described as a lullaby, conveyed by its sauntering guitar riff, soothing vocals and thoughtfully placed string and key interludes. Acda urges you to “release yourself from sleeplessness.” The track comes across as uncomplicated, but only because it was deliberately crafted to feel that way. You’ll hear Oregonian Peter Broderick’s vocals complementing Acda’s delicate voice and innovative German pianist and producer Nils Frahm, who recently performed in-studio at KEXP, providing the subtle piano crescendo which magnifies Acda’s voice without overwhelming it. Chantal uses imagery of arms and hands as guides in the song, with Acda helping the vulnerable Broderick, but the nature of the relationship between the two is vague, seeming to vary with each listen. While the idea of a lullaby is inherently comforting, the track offers a gloomier interpretation. There’s something mournful and bittersweet in the lyrics, evoking those fragile emotions that keep us awake at night. The music’s power lies not in emphatic vocals nor an onslaught of instruments, but in its soft simplicity.
Chantal Acda will embark on her European tour this week but has no U.S. plans as of yet. You can keep up with her on Facebook or on her website. For now, watch the poignant video for “Arms Up High” below: