Song of the Day: Brenda Xu – Lovely Storm

photo by Elle Hanley

photo by Elle Hanley

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 DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Lovely Storm,” by Seattle-based singer-songwriter Brenda Xu, from her 2017 self-released record, Overflow.

Brenda Xu – Lovely Storm (MP3)“Lovely Storm” is the sound of surviving the beautiful, messy, and sometimes painful present. From the second Seattle’s Brenda Xu utters the song’s first line – “Stop. Turn. Don’t move forward. Stay right there” – listeners are immediately trapped in time, nodding along with the steady pluck of Xu’s acoustic guitar. As a cello creeps in, she repeats her message, sounding nearly resigned, like a lover tired of arguing with a partner who won’t come to their senses: “One. Two. Three. Four. / Don’t look forward. Don’t look back / It’s all the same, honey / It’s all the same to me.” Suddenly, the song erupts. With full-bodied strumming and cymbal crashes in the background, the local artist reveals a small, personal detail, giving this moment a place: “I was 22 when I met you on a Tuesday in July.” Quivering strings accent, but do not distract, from the building tension.

Still, the lyrics remain abstract enough for listeners to project their own experiences onto the growing storm, which peaks as two hypnotic vocal lines collide. Singing, Xu repeatedly counts up from one to eight, with brief rests in between, as if exhausted from trying to keep up with time. Meanwhile, Xu harmonizes the song’s most haunting line at a much slower speed: “Tiny spaces / They find me,” Xu murmurs, as her own voice is subdivided over and over by a stream of numbers. At the song’s conclusion, the strings rise and disappear, the drums drop out, and all we are left with is gentle plucking and these looping vocals: reminders of one person’s life within the tiny spaces of each instant. It’s unsettling, beautiful, and oddly cathartic. This is the sound of one human grappling with the mess of the moment. You’ll find it hard not relate.

Following her first European tour in April, Brenda Xu will return to the PNW on May 13th, playing with Nathan Reed at Space Craft at Rollingbay Hall on Bainbridge Island. Until then, you can see what Brenda Xu is up to moment to moment on her website and Facebook page, and be sure to check out the official video for “Lovely Storm” below.

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