“The Hearttaker” – Americana

“The Hearttaker” has an altogether ’50s vibe in the chord progression with some crazy, space jazz synths layered in. The addition of the synths adds a texture you don’t hear in previous sf59 songs. It also frees up the guitars to do more than just carry the song. The rhythm guitars and bass are chunkier and feel like more an extension of the drums. By contrast, the lead guitar sounds as big and open as canyons.

The music during the verses have dissonance. There is a tension here. This tension is resolved in the major chords of the chorus. This switch matches what is being expressed in the lyrics. What is present throughout the song is this relentless, determined rhythm, always plodding forward and inevitable. This also matches the lyrics. Let’s take a look at them. In the verse, we have:

If you lead you know
It’s hard to be until you go
You know it’s hard
To know or just believe

I can take this song in two different directions as far as interpretation goes. I think there is the obvious interpretation of living as a Christian. I’m not talking about the “omg, Christians are persecuted!” that is so popular when people get riled up because Starbucks doesn’t have a Christian image on their Christmas cups. I’m talking about the authentic path of living by faith and humility day in and day out. It is hard to believe. It is hard to live by faith in a world that rewards self-centeredness. You feel out of place and out of time as a way of being. In that constant reality, it is easy to doubt.

Another interpretation would be that this is about being creative. When I write of being creative, I’m talking about any situation where you create something from within yourself where there was nothing before. It is not limited to music, art or writing. It could be when you are at work and you think of a new way to do things that makes life easier. It could be falling in love. It could be having and raising children. When you take what is inside of you and put it out there in the world, you are creating.

And it is an anxiety-laden task, creation is. No wonder God had to take a day to rest after creating the world. Doubt is the constant companion of innovation. When you are doing something no one has done before, when there is no template to follow, doubt will follow in lock step. Will anyone understand what I’m doing? What if I am going down the wrong path? Will this mean anything to anyone? What if I fail? What if I give up? If you get it right, it could be glorious. If you mess it up, you may get the crushing isolation of knowing that no one gets who you are and what you are made of.

With both potential interpretations, one may ask what is the point of doing any of this. We get an answer in the chorus:

Because the hearttaker
Makes it easier just believe

In the Christian or religious interpretation of this song, you live by faith because of God. Your doubts are answered in God. The feeling out of place and out of time in the world is because you find a place in God. You are in time with God. Knowing this abates the doubt, at least for awhile. It is a continual process. I think this is why the verse with all its tension is repeated after the first chorus. Living in faith is the continual moving from states of doubt and anxiety to affirmation and connectedness. You continue to live through it because God continues to take your heart.

As for the creative interpretation, it is something I have been pondering in relation to this blog. Like, what am I even trying to do here? This thing that I’ve hammered together is a weird mash-up of musical analysis, psychology, theology and personal narrative – sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes they are crushing, sometimes they are both simultaneously. People don’t usually write music reviews in this way. They keep more distance from themselves and the subject matter. But here I am, just throwing it all out there without much of a plan or an objective. Sometimes my writing frustrates me. Sometimes it surprises me by saying something I didn’t anticipate consciously. It is a mix.

There is anxiety and doubt that goes with this. Will anyone get what I am saying? Will it mean anything to anyone? Will this end up being just another thing to add to the long list of things I’ve failed at in my life? The strongest answer I have for all of the above is “maybe”.

So why keep doing it? I love music; I love this band. I have lots of thoughts about it and I have to do something with these thoughts or they will keep bouncing around in my head like a pinball. I’m understanding these songs in a deeper way because I’m taking the time to listen to them and write about them. That pulls me forward. I am also understanding myself in a deeper way because I’m taking the time to listen to myself and write it down. There is a kind of erotica to that process. At the end of the day, the one who takes my heart may just be me.

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