Although she’s often categorized as folk, Sarah Slean is infinitely more musically talented than most folk musicians. That’s not meant as a slight to folk musicians; it’s just that the checklist for being a folk musician doesn’t usually include years of classical piano training and composition.
Sarah Slean would be better characterized as orchestral pop, along the lines of her fellow Canadian Rufus Wainwright. This song, from her first album, “Night Bugs”, is maybe not so obviously orchestral, but her talent is on full display nonetheless.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The piano. Not catchy in the traditional sense, but its uneasy arpeggiated melody manages to squeeze its way into my brain every now and then. In recent years, Slean has pursued the more marketable route of being backed by a four-piece band (with good results, too) but I still think she’s at her best when the focus is her and her piano.
2. The lyrics. “You are all the alphabet in one…you are every colour of confusion…you are all the science I’ve become.” Great stuff. Just don’t use it as a pickup line.
3. The horns. Slean is great at string and horn arrangements, and the horn part in this song is achingly lovely.
Recommended listening activity:
Drinking sherry while reading through your old diary.