I was going to do my usual shtick of describing what the vocals and instruments do, and when they come in, and how they come out of nowhere and sound wonderful, and all of that—after making a general point about a particular musical technique and using that to introduce the song.
But it wouldn't really have done the song justice—musically, at least, it's not revolutionary (though there are some beats nestled in amongst the instrumentation that wouldn't sound out of place on Homogenic), but that's not the point. Yes, it's a piano that happens to convey a lot of the warmth; again, not the point. And that synth line coming out of each chorus (or serving as its second half) is just lovely—not really the point. The point:
“Don't Lose Yourself” by Laura Veirs is simply beautiful.
Though it's impossible not to enjoy on a visceral level (lest your soul be judged stony and dead), the song's also blessed with intelligence. There are a full four verses (though the second half of the last segués into the final chorus): each and every line would have made a good title for the album, or for this entry, or for some other blog post, or for a personal blog, or for an episode of a TV programme; if “Tiger Ointment and the Cosmic Collision” isn't an actual band in ten years' time, I may have to start one.
The lyrics aren't particularly complex, however—every fourth line usually completes a simple rhyme, and that's about it. They're just inventive and thoughtful and good. So intriguing are the verses' lyrics, and so good is the accompanying groove, the words in the chorus don't need to extend beyond
Don't lose yourself; don't let yourself be lost. Anyone can sing along with that.
Through most of “Don't Lose Yourself”, Laura's voice is actually a bit deadpan—she sings simply and without affectation. Her singing's only punctuated by the backing briefly dropping before launching into the second chorus.
But at the end, right where you'd expect a fifth verse, the chorus's instrumental groove instead continues, and Laura comes in with a lyric-less vocal—the type that may well have been ad-libbed—as the song fades away. It's clearly a heartfelt expression of emotion (and not a showing-off exercise), quiet and understated enough to be missed by those not paying attention (or with the volume too low).
Just that little, quiet sound perfectly conveys the elation I feel listening to this song. If you download one song this week, make it Don't Lose Yourself. Then smile.
(How do you follow that? Try “Can't Be Sure” (from Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) by the Sundays.)