Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry, Illustration based on a photo by Kristy Ralston
There's enemy fire lighting up the night in the Bone & Bell song, "The Lights." The protagonist sees it, sees all of it, and it hits her in a way that she hadn't thought that it would. It actually hits in a way that she had hoped it wouldn't. It's a song that doesn't seem to be all that much about a warzone, but more about some form of inner war. It's about fighting a stasis that might just be unbeatable. It's about getting to a point when the skies are raining down and there's a thought that this quite possibly could be it.
Heather Smith, the force behind the epically chill-bump-inducing, Chicago-based project, sings, "So this is the end of my rope/And it's not as exciting as I would have hoped," and it's part letdown, part deception. Who knows what she's been telling herself and who knows what others have been telling her all this time that would get her to the point where the disappointment could be so great, when the ticks of the clock were dwindling. Smith, with her acoustic finger-picking and such harrowing and sophisticated vocals, makes you feel as if you've been swimming in red wine all day, just floating in it, turning purple, getting so slowly fucked up on it. There's a romance between heaven, hell and here, weaving between so much of her writing. We're unable to figure out where she is and where she wants us to all go together. You feel a pull into a dewy cemetery grounds, at the midnight hour. You feel the early morning sunshine, with the memories of the cold thoughts from the night before.
The way she plays and the way she sings, you're not certain what to do with either the morning sunshine, nor the lingering thoughts from the graveyard. These are the beautiful doldrums, or the spooky leftovers from something mysteriously charged that make you sit still and soak it all in. The songs have a properness to them, a classy smokiness to them, but they don't feel right to be brought out at the dinnertime hour. She sings, "Sweet Queen Regina/How can you leave me now/I can never leave you/Wouldn't even know how/Petticoats and blades of grass/A tickle here, a pinch of ass/Moments that would never last/Despite how we tried/Now Regina's dead and gone/Queen uncrowned/Chosen one/Broken, beaten, bound and tied/From ruby lips and hips that lied," and it feels royal, somewhat. It also feels to be a bit dirty, with that pinch of ass, and then there's the part about the hips lying. It's a splash of split meanings and odd temperatures that, together, form a lovely train of thought.