Island of Daughters by The Lulls

When considering “Island of Daughters” as a whole, remember that we wrote this album specifically for vinyl. As a result, every song on side A finds its complement and contrast on side B. We introduce you to each side with the Afro-Caribbean rhythms of “Answers” and “Morocco,” followed by the French influence of “Bruise” and “Paris,” the female empowerment of “Calafia” and “Tyrant” and, finally, the dream states of “Listen” and “Wholly”—both songs of being (don’t let the wholly-holy pun be lost on you), but in different incarnations. Hopefully, these notes have given you a deeper appreciation of the album and the thought, energy and spirit that went into it. Thank you for listening!

8. Wholly by The Lulls

The last song on a lot of albums is usually a soft ballad, and “Wholly” doesn’t stray too far from this custom. Borrowing some suspended chords from a Deep Sea Diver song and Grizzly Bear’s rockabye toms, the song follows the structure of a lot of songs on the album—first movement, second movement, third movement. The second movement, which is just guitar and voices, requires a lot of implicit timing agreement, because again, the voices are syncopated with the guitar on very important beats. This song really brings the album to a close with a sense of finality and wholeness—the final dream of the collection.

Your body, my baby
Complete me, wholly

Your thought stream, I'm listening
Completely, wholly

Wholly, wholly

It’s been a long, long time
Do you grow tired?
Because I do
And I want to
Lie all of my life

Your body, my baby
Complete me, wholly

Your false dream, I'm listening
Completely, wholly

Wholly, wholly

7. Tyrant by The Lulls

Note the war drums from the beginning. Immediately, this should signal the anthemic nature of “Tyrant.” This song is a letter from the oppressed to the oppressor, a declaration of existence, an insistence on recognition. Importantly, it’s not meant to stand in place of a woman’s voice but in solidarity with a woman’s voice. You might call this Calafia’s sister composition. Part shoegaze, part surf-rock and part krautrock, this song is one of the most emotive on the album.

Tyrant, bad men
Held my breath in
Tyrant, no end
—Your sweet woman

As bricks of sweat fell from your brow
Cement poured from your mouth
You built the ideal of yourself
And it all comes tumbling down

Sometimes, I wonder
If our hell is your heaven

Tyrant, weak men
Drank my breasts thin
Tyrant, je ne suis pas [I am not]
Votre femme [Your woman]

Sometimes, I wonder
If our hell is your heaven

It’s your heaven
It’s your heaven

Tyrant, I am
Je suis woman

6. Paris by The Lulls

“Paris” further complicates time by adding a bar of 7/4 onto two bars of four or a bar of 3/4 onto three bars of four (it’s all fractions). This pattern continues until the staccato bridge, which turns to a straight 4/4 before reverting to odd time again for the rest of the song. Again, the music stands in contrast to the lyrical content, which is largely about suicide. The melody came first, and then the lyrics eventually materialized thanks to a French New Wave film directed by Jacques Rivette entitled, “Paris Belongs to Us.” The plot of the movie centers around a group of party guests in post-World War II Paris and how the suicide of their friend Juan influences their actions. Taking this into consideration, a heavy reliance on major 7 chords might suggest discordant peace—the coastal dreamscape of death. 

Juan, come on
Get off, move on (x2)

Juan, come on
Get off, move on
Cut up your gut
Little ones up your arms
'Cause of what?

Awful people lost that war, but
Weren't not awful anymore, they just
Moved on
Why can't you, Juan? (x2)

5. Morocco by The Lulls

Like “Answers,” “Morocco” (as the title indicates) draws on African rhythms, but it harnesses trip-hop’s mood and melodicism. Where “Listen” revolves around major A and D chords, this song revolves around minor A and D chords and breaks from the 4/4 time signature of the preceding songs by adding a bar of 6/4, thus marking a twist in the album toward complication (note that if you’re listening on vinyl, this is the first song of side B). The song should transport the listener to a hazy opium den with its mystical tint. Many of the lyrics come from William Blake’s metaphysical poem, “The Tyger.” In this particular iteration, aesthetic beauty is both the source and the product of primal passion.

In the dark you shine
A burning tyger in the night
In the dark you shine
A burning tyger in my mind

Tyger, burning bright     
In the forests of the night     
In the dark I hide
From the glowing of your light
In the dark I find you
In the middle of my mind     
Art twists the heart,
Twists the heart,
Twists (x2)

Art twists the heart,
Twists the heart,
Full of wonder

Art fills the heart,
Fills the heart,
Pulls me under

Art twists the heart,
Twists the heart,
Full of wonder

Art twists the heart, 
Twists the heart,

4. Listen by The Lulls

While “Listen” owes a lot to shoegaze, it also draws on new wave influences. The hi-hat is on the offbeat—as it would be with dance-influenced punk—but it’s also open, which pulls it out of the earth and into the water. Revolving around two major chords (A and D), the song should leave the listener with a sense of optimism. But it doesn’t. It’s a rather complicated minimalism. While somewhat of a companion piece to “Answers,” this song is less optimistically affirmative and more indignantly solipsistic—and it’s resigned to that fact.

It always starts with
Someone saying
Something to me
I can't hear them
I can't be myself
With all of my
Many voices shaking over

Your words
I heard mine first
I don't like it
I don't fight it
I just listen
I try to listen

3. Calafia by The Lulls

For all of its structural experimentation, “Calafia” is most illustrative of the album’s minimalist aesthetic. Not a single chord is played until the very end, as the song gives its last few breaths before sucking back in. Sometimes we call the song “Gothic Blondie,” because it has a dark tinge, but it’s still pretty bouncy and ‘70s art-punky—until it totally changes gear. Because it deals with the Spanish myth of California as an island empire of black women (hence our album title, “Island of Daughters”), female empowerment and the sense of standing atop a precipice pervade the music. The drop-off from the first movement to the second suggests a leap from this precipice and into flight. The spell is broken once the listener hits the ground for the third movement and continues running off the edge of the earth.

End of the earth
Where our lives all started
Uneasy birth
An island of daughters was calling

Walk off the earth
No wives are martyrs
Save for the first, if that doesn’t work
An empire of daughters has fallen

I know that you are
Stronger than me and my friends are
Stronger than me and my friends are (x6)

Our world's been all
Targets in panopticons
Fear in control
In brush cover collect arrows
Cut from the chest
Cut time it takes to strike now
Stronger than me and my friends
Stronger than me and my friends

2. Bruise by The Lulls

Perhaps the most readily accessible song on the album, “Bruise” was also the first song we intentionally wrote for this project. As for its structure, chorus and verse placement are inverted like they are in many early Beatles and Ramones songs. So, the music and lyrics owe a lot to both ‘60s pop-rock and also early punk. Writing the bridge in French was largely a sonic and syllabic choice, but it also came out of the failure of language and the role it plays in the breakdown of relationships with people, place, things, etc. This collapse is illustrated most clearly at the end of the song as it loses its lulling drive and veers into Talking Heads-esque punk-funk before devolving into dub. 

You’re a bruise (x2)

Wherever all my love goes
A part of you is gonna show
The bluer wound that you hold
Is something I don’t wanna know (x2)

But I wanna know
I don’t wanna know

Vous êtes en rouge [you’re in red]
Vous êtes en vouz [you’re in you]

You’re a bruise (x2)

Where will all your love go?
What part of you is gonna show?
Who is taking you home?
Don’t tell me I don’t wanna know

Where will all your love go?
What part of you is gonna show?
Who is making you whole?
Don’t tell me I don’t wanna know

But I wanna know
I don’t wanna know

1. Answers by The Lulls

"Answers" developed out of a simple, forgotten pop riff from an old rehearsal recording. It would go on to open out into atmospheric layers of a more complex world. The major key and tropical rhythms belie its existential angst and affirmation of subjectivity, which are fleshed out by impressionistic explosions of blues, greens and oranges. Pay careful attention to the syncopations occurring between the upbeat guitar melody and the lethargic vocal melody in the first half of the song. By the second half, instead of opposing or bouncing against the musical support, the octave jump in the vocals affirms the triumph of the last stanza. Any aspect of the cartoonish is modulated by the lyrics, which are included below.

If you can come by any answer
Be it accidental and all
At an unlikely place, such an off pace
There's no sense in any of it

How does it go?
Oh oh oh
What does it go for?
Tell me about it
I didn't doubt it
For a second
It was out there

Let my life be
All mine
Made entirely of
Of my, oh my
Own likes