Hearts Stop doesn’t play the same shifting cards; but there’s still an odd, artful twist to Cceruleann’s songcraft, which means that anything even slightly unusual about them becomes loaded with significance. The fact that babydoll-voiced singer Marilyn and instrumentalist Elliot are siblings; that they live half a globe apart in Denver and in London; that together they’re writing these peculiar, minimal and contradictory electro-pop songs with their pretty little coatings… All of it adds to the uneasy allure.
This time, the artwork is a swarming beehive. Marching on an incongruous, thunderous hip-hop drumbeat and tuneful electropop bleeps, Hearts Stop is built around a slim haiku of lyric which Marilyn chants against a skein of wineglass warbles: “We can fly forever, / but we will fall when our hearts stop. / The fall will break us.” During the breakdowns, her multi-tracked voice twines coyly around itself, as new blips and patters worm their way into the skein. A distorted female laugh bubbles up in the mix, and stays there. A sampler dices and hiccups out the song title (two-and-a-half syllables of the haiku).
It’s as simple as that. And maybe it is as simple as that. Maybe there’s no more decoding to be done, and the bees are only wrapped around the single for effect. Maybe Cceruleann have just written another synth-pop anthem about love, broken hearts and death in the overblown way it’s supposed to go, so that we can keep singing songs about it.
Unless, perhaps, Cceruleann aren’t singing about love and heartbreak at all. Perhaps they’re actually making a point about work and obsession; about how we’re driven on by what we believe we ought to do, whether it’s grinding our lives to dust in a thankless job or slowly crushing ourselves to exhaustion against people and causes which simply don’t love us back. In this light, the song shifts into something different and more ambivalent – a sweet-sounding lemming-march, a chant for the worker bees who strive until they stumble and end and are swept aside for the next ones. Perhaps I’m imagining it. If so, it’s only because I don’t ever quite trust Cceruleann to play straight.
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