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  • Writer's picturearielaaviva

The Wonderful Whimsy of Cricket Blue

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Cricket Blue's Laura Heaberlin and Taylor Smith standing in front of a weeping willow holding flowers
Photo by Emily Jacobs

Sometimes I feel compelled to write because I’m so full of an idea that I can’t go on with my life until I’ve let it out in some way. This blog is filled with such impulses, rants on the inequity in America’s medical establishments or outpourings of gratitude. Today, it’s about Cricket Blue. If you haven’t heard of them, please go check them out. I first fell in love with their music because of the vocals and the unique – sometimes downright surprising – melodies, harmonies, and arrangements. It is rich, vibrant, and somewhere between tingly / prickly. I especially love the dissonances that they lean into with a weight that balances the delicate lilting of surrounding notes. I love singing along because I can feel the overtones created in such discord tickling my vocal cords and vibrating tension out of the muscles in my (oft painful) throat and neck. It’s this feeling that made the conferences I attended in high school (such as MENC or All-State choirs) so powerful – the feeling of voices stacking their vibrations in such a way as to physically change the air surrounding me and tickle the cells within me. I have spent hours listening to their songs on repeat because it just felt good in my body, massaging out the emotions and tensions and longing that I found myself clinging to. It’s an experience that I have struggled to find elsewhere. (If you have other recommendations, I would LOVE to hear them :-)

But I realized something else today. I fell in love with Cricket Blue’s music, but the love has continued to grow steadily because of the lyrics.

When I consume other forms of media – books, movies, shows, theater, podcasts, even games – I am looking for an escape, something to transcend my world or tear me away to another dimension. I gravitate toward authors like Brandon Sanderson and comedy podcasts like The Adventure Zone. Sure, I like characters or moments here and there that I can connect with, that help me process my own life and feelings. But the majority of the time, I want to be swept into the creative recesses of someone else’s mind.

Why, when we have such imaginative and immersive options in all other media, do we continuously sing songs about our mundane lives? Don’t get me wrong, I love a sweet love song or cathartic breakup song (shoutout to "Stick Season" and my lovely friend Dan Rome for his role in bringing Noah Kahan’s tune to the world!) and other autobiographical reflections. Sometimes I need Phoebe Bridgers to just remind me it’s ok to be sad, or Nora Jones to help me greet the sunrise with a smile. But where are my sweeping landscapes and character arcs?

When first listening to Cricket Blue, I would find myself wondering “what from Laura’s life is she referring to in the moment or character being described?” When I finally asked where her inspiration came from, it had nothing to do with examining one’s own experience. She was deeply entwined with her characters, but not because they were all expressions of herself. Rather, they were friends she had discovered from the depths of her imagination, had nurtured through months of journaling and writing short stories and coming back around the way you would with friends from out of town.

She was developing relationships with these characters and letting them tell her about their experiences through patiently waiting and listening. She knew far more about their lives than is let on in these lyrical snapshots.

It reminds me less of the (extremely limited) songwriting I’ve attempted and much more of the performing arts classes I took in college, in which we would take time to get to know our characters. We needed to know their secrets, the things that even the playwrights, directors, audiences didn’t even know. Then we could let them tell their stories through us as actors and singers.

A few months ago, Cricket Blue posted a new song about old flames that 100% hit the nail on the head. I felt simultaneously like laughing and puking, as if someone had punched me in the gut and then offered me a warm hug (I had also just recently reached out to a long-past love to reconnect and acknowledge what we've learned as adults about our time together). The lyrics and music were, of course, stunning. But when I commented on how relatable I found the story, Laura responded that they had been working really hard to write songs that were more relatable.

This made me a little sad, and at the time I wasn’t sure why. Of course it made sense – some folks likely find songs like “Forsythia” and “Corn King” a little confusing or difficult to connect to. It would be lovely to provide an in, for these folks; a mirror in which they might discover that these dissonances and metaphors are worth a second pass. What a wonderful thing it would be for more people to find this incredible music accessible! But I keep hearing the refrain from Patrick Rothfuss’s intro to the (very Cricket Blue-esque) story The Slow Regard of Silent Thingsthis is not for them. This music is for me, for the people like me who need that escapism, who crave the rich character lives and undisclosed plots. Yes, more music that is relatable can only be a wonderful addition. But I dearly hope the otherworldly whimsical-yet-dark tales are not lost in the process.

Now, when I listen to Cricket Blue, instead of trying to relate it to my own experiences, or trying to guess what of their own lives were being regurgitated (although some of their stories are autobiographical but filled with metaphorical tunnels to explore all day long), I instead let my mind loose as if watching a movie. I escape into the tapestries being woven, become someone else, and don’t try too hard to find my way back to the world that sometimes carries too much pain for this deep empath. Perhaps that’s why I never seem to listen to just one song, just once. I find myself submerging into their worlds for hours, reluctant to come out again, even after the water has cooled and my toes are pruney.


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