Spirit Goth’s Cassette Club, October 2019: The Bilinda Butchers, Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams

Kid With A Vinyl is thrilled to co-announce the official October 2019 release in Spirit Goth’s Cassette Club: The Bilinda Butchers’ stunning EP Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams

The Bilinda Butchers – led by Michal Kepsky and accompanied by Lukas Untersteiner, Adam Honingford, and Brock Lowry – first released Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams eight years ago. For us, The BBs are the absolute epitome of bedroom dream pop, housing lush, piercing melodies and hazy vocals that often soar far above nostalgia, instead evoking something blissfully and gorgeously inexplicable in their jagged, pastel-tinged narratives. At the moment, they are in the studio, working on the follow-up to their fantastic 2012 EP goodbyes as well as their 2014 LP Heaven

ABOUT SPIRIT GOTH AND CASSETTE CLUB:

Spirit Goth is an excellent lo-fi pop label based in New York, representing stellar indie artists including Vansire, High Sunn, and Sports Coach. They began their subscription service Cassette Club back in January 2019, which features limited edition (and often exclusive) presses of lo-fi dream pop and bedroom pop albums and EPs every single month, shipping worldwide. Releases in the past have included Ruby Haunt’s Blue Hour, Frankie Cosmos’s Covers, as well as Rarities, a collection of beats and remixes from Vansire’s Josh Augustin. 

If you join by October 10, you’ll get the incredible Bilinda Butchers cassette, entry into one of the best clubs around, and, most importantly, the knowledge that you’ll be supporting amazing, hard-working indie artists as well as a wonderful indie record label. 

As for us, we’re planning to do a KWAV Revisited on Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams closer to the cassette release, which will go deeper into the album – but for now, I’ll share one of my favorite songs from The Bilinda Butchers, which just so happens to come from this exact release! 

 

You can check out Spirit Goth here, and Cassette Club here.

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Album Review: SPARKLING, I Want to See Everything

I met one of my best friends in German class during our junior year of college. She was taking it as part of her minor, in order to better round out her business major, and would later travel to Germany for said business; I took it so I could translate Kafka and Hesse from their original texts. Needless to say, we both had very different intentions, but we still came to be incredibly close, and now, one of the many inside jokes we have as a direct extension from that particular year is the term “Ich sehe,” meaning simply “I see.” As you can probably guess, we use it in public when we want the other to notice something, or someone, without being terribly obvious. I’ll be honest – sometimes it backfires. But usually it leads to a laugh, a quick nod of approval, something understood and communicated.

While listening to German post-punk trio SPARKLING’s absolutely fantastic debut album I Want to See Everything, I realized that, while our “inside joke” was a bit silly, this want – not only seeing, but the immediate want for others to notice and reflect on it as well – in a way translates to the idea of empathy, and it radiates brilliantly in the album through its narratives (and the album cover, which is easily one of our favorites of the year). With lyrics sung in English, German, and French throughout, there is a universality they push to achieve that also relates directly back to this idea of empathy – the title track switches from language to language, but repeats one single desire: I want to see everything, I want to see the world. 

Speaking of the world, while originally from Cologne, the trio – composed of brothers Levin and Leon Krasel and Luca Shuten – recorded half of this debut in Berlin, and half inside a moldy eighteen square meter room in London where they lived for half a year. In that vein, most, if not all, of these tracks feel cramped, breathless, volatile. But it’s the sort of environment where things thrive, like the mold creeping up the walls – “Alive,” with its jangly, rampaging guitar, feels like sitting in the backseat of a car going ninety on the highway once the chorus hits; True to the band’s name, standout track “Champagne” sparkles, but does so violently, meticulously, with bubbles quickly rising to the surface and popping in time with the chorus. 

I always like to equate post-punk with postmodernism, considering they share a lot of the same themes, and most of the narratives within IWTSE subtly deal with simply being a good person amidst a world of chaos, of actively questioning what we see if we know in our hearts that it is wrong. “The Same Again” expresses the frustration felt when individuals, and in a broader sense, humanity, continue to do the same things  – supposedly socially and politically – despite repeated failures, despite knowing it is morally and ethically wrong. With scathing wit he repeats “Is this how we wake up?/ Is this how we feel?” Closer “Something Like You” is perhaps the most direct with its frustration, most memorable with the insane stop-and-go guitars, emulating the expression of emotions the moment they are felt, but still meticulous, calculated, hot to the touch. 

And yet, although there are thrashing guitars and heavy percussion, there is usually a moment within each of these songs that rips through the meticulous catharsis and instead expresses vulnerability through an unexpected 80’s/90’s synth wave or electronica melody, a softer instrumental tone, a subtle shimmer running under Levin Krasel’s expulsive vocals. The techno beat in the second half of “We Don’t Want It,” the metallic whine in “The Same Again,” and the glimmering pinpricks of guitar during the interludes of “Next To Me” all act like soap slivers cutting through oil, bright light breaking through smoke. In dealing with such a heavy genre, little effects and flourishes like this make the songs not only stunning and memorable, but able to be played again and again without gumming up the stereo. 

SPARKLING’s debut feels strangely prophetic, in a lot of ways. It speaks to the latent human desire to understand the world we live in, to not take everything directly as it comes. Perhaps, we should strive less to open that proverbial third eye, but simply open our given eyes just a little bit wider.

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photo courtesy of écoute chérie

Humeysha – “Nusrat on the Beach” / “Beauty in All”

When I first heard Humeysha’s absolutely brilliant EP Nusrat on the Beach earlier this week, it was well after midnight, and admittedly I was right on the cusp of sleep, lodged somewhere in between dream and reality. Despite my listless floundering between these two consciousnesses, the songs wafted towards me, attached themselves to my skin, lingering overnight like strains of the same strong, sticky perfume. I remember waking up the next morning in a daze, thinking I had imagined it. I made coffee, got dressed for class, caught the bus just as it was leaving. I unlocked my phone to settle into my playlist and looked down in disbelief. There it was, sitting there like a priceless memento I had stolen from a fantasy. I hadn’t dreamed it. 

While reading an essay penned by Humeysha’s creator, Zain Alam, I later found out that the title track to the EP was surprisingly conceived in a similar fashion as to when I first discovered it:

“A few years ago the melody for this song came to me in a dream. I woke up from a nap, and as I took a stroll down a California beach, the song structure began to assemble itself. I was there to see a lover for the last time and say goodbye. But in that dream I had decided to move there instead, close to the ocean, abandoning my plans to attend graduate school in Islamic studies, back on the East Coast.”

As an American artist of Indian and Pakistani origin who worked extensively as an oral historian for the 1947 Partition Archive, it is no surprise that Alam tends to embed history and culture within his stunning soundscapes. His self-titled debut released back in 2015 – as well as everything released since then – takes influence from his unique diasporic upbringing, as well as the narratives possessed by the people from his homeland, which spans decades. What results is a stunning concoction of Panda Bear-esque psychedelia and textured synth, traditional Sufi orchestrations, and detailed, poetic narratives sung in both English and Hindi-Urdu. The Nusrat on the Beach EP, which Alam released earlier this month, delves into an alternate imagining of one of his main influences:

“In those days, I was consumed by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s recordings….I imagined Nusrat on the beach, far away from his native Punjab. Nusrat is beloved by audiences around the world and affectionately known in South Asia as the Shahenshah-e-Qawwali, the final seal of qawwals whose music is a Sufi practice aiming for fana’a, the annihilation of self in pursuit of the divine. I’ve found deep inspiration for my own music in how qawwals use chant and repetition to comfort (and challenge) the self, sustain explorations in rhythm, and invite audiences to participate.” 

I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was about the title track or “Beauty In All” that made my heart feel like it was being submerged and held in icy cold water; I can’t explain what it is about the coarse twang of sitar mixed with the jagged wail of synth and shoegaze guitar that sends my mind into a tailspin. Perhaps it is because these sounds remind me of my own upbringing, although yes, I am aware that Indian music and Persian music are not the same thing. But in a lot of ways, they are quite alike – highly evocative, textured compositions, jangly and shimmering instrumentals made up of violin, santour, tar, and the like, dense narratives based on ancient lyric poetry. There’s something about evoking the distant divine with middle eastern music, about losing the self and reaching something more substantial. 

In a similar re-imagining of my own, I often catch myself wondering what my life would have been like if my parents never left Tehran. Perhaps my Farsi would have been better, perhaps my gaze would have been rougher, sharper, meaner under the harsh shadow of my hijab. Perhaps I never would have been born at all. These ponderings have pushed me to appreciate my personal experiences, the fragile interplay between the world my parents left behind and the one they managed to cultivate for me and my brother, one that was blessed with the absolute best parts of east and west. Often I wonder how to portray both sides of myself in my writing; I hope I am not being too forward as to say this was also the case with Alam, with his music. In any case, these songs, repeatedly bridging the gap between tradition and modernity, remain staggeringly beautiful and otherworldly, a glimpse into another blissful reality that might exist somewhere, off in the distance. 

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Brahny – “Paradise”

Brahny’s music is like a tonally vivid, yet tastefully subtle potpourri – packed to the absolute brim with textures and color, but never overwhelming to the senses. His smooth, soulful singles “Bloom” and “Pride” released last year both seemed to touch on the idea of induced nostalgia, flawlessly embedding the infamous inexpressible feeling into instrumentals and brooding, synthesized beats, marking his remarkable skill as producer and vocalist alike. Later this year, the Toronto-based artist will release his highly anticipated debut EP Moon, with “Paradise” as his first official single. 

Sung in delicate, breathless vocals, he explains “I want you by my side,” that he longs for “sunsets that last all night,” inserting just a bit of naivete in beckoning for a relationship that’s all honeymoon, no substance or profundity. Ironically, the track strives to poke holes in this blissed out, carefree intent at times:

“‘Paradise’ is an attempt to show (in an overly dramatic way) that regardless of how perfect an initial love or infatuation is, there will likely be stuff you’ve gotta deal with and work on.” 

Along with background glitters and sparkles that beautifully match the track title, the embedded synth in the opening (my own interpretation, and therefore entirely subjective) hums and swells in a gorgeously similar manner to the Erhu, a traditional two-stringed Chinese instrument. This, as well as the use of Beijing Opera masks in the stunning three-act video for “Paradise,” may all be stunning nods to Brahny’s Chinese heritage, which he explained briefly in a recent interview with ones to watch along with the track’s inspiration and meaning:

“We’re constantly being bombarded with the ‘ideal relationship’ – an idyllic concept that hardly seems to reflect reality. The melodramatic stories from Beijing Opera seem to understand that. Where there’s life there’s death, and where there’s love there will always be complications.”

And yet, at the end, where we are supposed to have learned our lesson on falling in too deep, too fast, the closing lines show a deeper infatuation, a scene for the next morning, after the endless sunset – the other voice promises to “save a rising sun” to “give it to you to feel warm wherever you go,” sung in a way that’s tender and genuine, soft and secure. 

The video, along with the track itself, are easily two of the year’s most captivating – watch and listen below. 

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photo courtesy of artist

Gardens & Villa – “Rosie”

I have always had a penchant for songs named after people. It’s what my eyes go to first when scanning new releases and album listings; The challenge, mystery, and allure of attempting to unlock memories and emotions from a single name is more than enough to draw me in. In that vein, when I first heard “Rosie” earlier this month, I knew it was something special, but soon, everything from its hazy charm to the stunningly delicate, passionate way it is sung makes it seem almost transcendental. Their first single after three years, Gardens & Villa initially approached the ballad as a hymn that was slowly added to, attaching it to the repetitions of nature during its composition:

“We started writing this song with a nylon string guitar and an upright piano one day while it was raining outside and we had our big warehouse sliding doors open, the rain flying into our studio. It was kind of a joke but it stuck and we found ourselves humming it every time it rained.”

The instrumentals, while fantastical in nature, also have a slight eeriness to their tone, the way they swell and warp, the way consciousness does when you’re waking from a dream, or perhaps, even a nightmare. Saccharine sweet, teary eyed vocals act like a pastoral folk tale, narrating the story of “a fool” that realizes he’s in far too deep, but far too infatuated to care. He repeats that he is “staying with crazy/ ‘cause that’s how you know its the real thing,” “leaving his body”and mind rooted while his heart is free to soar with someone that may or may not be good for him. 

“Rosie” is also one of the many tracks that the Los Angeles quartet was working on with the late Richard Swift, but have since then gone back to the studio with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado to finish their sophomore LP. 

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photo courtesy of artist

Teen Blush – “Felt Like Home”

Do me a favor. Close your eyes the same moment you press play on Teen Blush’s “Felt Like Home,” and I guarantee it’ll feel as if you’re both within and without a memory you didn’t know you had, perhaps even nestled somewhere deep within a collection of grainy home movies filmed on an old video camera. The woozy synth will course through, pinpricks of guitar will pierce it like beams of light, cutting through the haze. Kenneth Foss’s second single released under Spirit Goth’s net-based lo-fi label BIRTHDIY, “Felt Like Home” follows debut “Honey Stars,” the latest from the 18 year old Chicago-based artist’s take on the dream pop genre, which borders on the soft and the cinematic. He explained the origin of his moniker as an extension of the sort of music he creates: 

“I try to capture a unique feeling of nostalgia in my music, and a soft notion of teen angst, thus the name teen blush.”

Throughout the track he admits out from under the shuddering synth increasingly growing jagged and askew, that “Yeah you felt like home/ but now I’m homesick,” a phrase simple in structure but heavy in sentiment, not wallowing in the pain of impact but still taking note of the shape and color of the scar left behind. 

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photo courtesy of artist

Elio – “Babyfool”

Elio is the new dream pop psychedelia project of Los Angeles based artists Drew Straus and Nacho Cano – also known as Onsen and Harmless, respectively. Their recently released debut EP Elio 1 is a gorgeous, highly textured collection of tracks with expertly layered falsetto vocals, pulsating instrumentals that double as dance beats, as well as yearning, introspective narratives focusing on the idiosyncrasies of love. “Babyfool” takes a little from each column, resulting in perfectly balanced, smooth-as-silk ballad detailing all the frustration that occurs when infatuation alters the strength of our faculties. 

The duo explained that “Babyfool” is a breakup track, “written at the moment when the anger starts to wear off and the sadness creeps in,” the moment where you realize all that went wrong and how much of yourself was lost in the process. Shimmering synths and admissions of regret go hand in hand, repeating “I don’t wanna be the fool that falls in love with you,” that is, until finally realizing that though they didn’t want to leave, they can do “without” them, perhaps even better. 

Elio 1 is out now.

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Album Review: Petite League, Rattler

Lorenzo Gillis Cook has always channeled a unique sense of youth in his music that has remained unparalleled to other indie artists, housing this frustratingly lovesick, yet highly impassioned and fervid energy in his lo-fi, confidently diy instrumentals, accompanying stunning, specific narratives evoking all the saturated colors of a cherished retro baseball card. Just by looking at the illustrative song titles splayed across his first three albums as Petite League, you can immediately imagine the sun shining radiantly during the first blissful moments of summer – when listening to them, it’s always as if you can actually feel the warmth on your skin. These albums were all periods of finding and exploring identity, of making mistakes and memories, but, eventually, summers must come to an end; In Rattler, Petite League’s fourth full-length album, the baseball bat held onto so tightly in years past is switched out with a cowboy hat, summarizing a stunning transitory phase for everyone’s favorite indie expat. 

When a recent show was postponed due to rain, Gillis Cook – and his band, consisting of longtime friend, collaborator, and drummer Henry Schoonmaker, and multi-instrumentalists Adam Greenberg and Dan Pugh – promptly held another one in his backyard. There was something so incredibly fitting about this last-minute alteration, almost as if a longtime friend was asking if you wanted to drink cheap beer and sit in the tattered lawn chairs he’s been meaning to replace for years now. The pictures posted after the show looked like the epitome of a perfect summer night, friends and strangers huddled near plants adorned with string lights, hearing rare acoustic versions of an album worked on diligently for the past two years, perhaps not aware of what specifically went into its creation: 

“2018 was a different kind of year for me. Most likely under the dominion of a Quarter Life Crisis, I decided change was necessary and it needed to happen swiftly. So, like an unhinged 24 year old with a glaring identity crisis, I cut ties, I tied new ones, I split my time outside of the city and upstate, toyed with the idea that maybe I’d be happier giving up on everything I had loved to focus on what was right in front of me, and embraced the idea that music would come when it felt right instead of giving myself deadlines for the first time.”

What results is an incredibly thoughtful, concise album with the same irresistible lo-fi charm but with a newly found and matured sense of worth, clearly because ample time was taken to ruminate over them. Title track and opener “Rattler” bursts out with the signature Petite League raspy croon-yell and an immediate nod to the cowboy persona (“oh the snakes in the grass will rattle/ and the horse’s spook knocked you off your saddle”), but most importantly, also comes with a sense of confident resilience (“it’s far/ but we can make it/ I’ve got a broken heart/ you can’t break it”). Even the guitar throughout is newly manipulated in a confident manner that constantly works to respect each narrative – the serrated interlude between verses in “The Devil’s Rifle is Named After You” sounds like someone juggling a thousand chainsaws at a state fair; The rampaging melody in “White Knuckle Wildflower” evokes a horde of wild horses. 

There’s also a nod to Gillis Cook’s creative process within the groovy “Blood Gardens,” where he destroys the stark egotistical persona heard on “New York Girls” and instead admits he’s still a “soft boy” at heart; Ultimately, he channels the pain and emotion into his music, repeating that “I pour my blood in the garden so the grass grows,” digging deeper and deeper until the music translates something real. “White Knuckle Wildflower” also brings out another version of vulnerability among the thrashing noise  – the instrumentals, while upbeat and fun, tell a tale of desperation and yearning, wanting to leave, but simultaneously not wanting to leave anything behind. He touches on the aforementioned summary of the album, reminding himself “it’s gonna get easier someday, when you walk away from this city,” and if you wait too long, “the devil’s gonna run you out of town.” It’s a nod to a new beginning, but not without the dose of wistfulness that seems to come complimentary. “Infinite Fields,” explores the wistfulness a little more in the form of an acoustic guitar laden ballad, where he explains at his most calm, but simultaneously at his most somber, that “I’ve swam in sweeter oceans/ honey, it’s all the same,” and that “If you’ve loved the way I’ve loved/ you know no greater pain.” 

In that regard, the wonderful thing about closer “Yung Bubblegum” is how it works to summarize and equalize these ideas of maturity and love sickness seen throughout the album so eloquently. The meticulous, yet saccharine sweet guitar melody radiates and expands only to fittingly “pop” at the chorus, honing in on Gillis Cook’s voice at its most amplified, asking “American sweetheart/ why’d you have to be so mean to me?” He wakes up with the bubblegum matted in his hair, but, blinded and infatuated by this person, he admits “as long as the dreams were good/ I don’t care.” It’s jagged and soft all at once, including all the best parts of a classic Petite League song all in one. At the very end, we get a stripped-down, demo version of the chorus, which truly drives home not only the fact that he wrote and recorded all of this in his home, but that these narratives were something he truly put his entire self into.


When I was a kid, my favorite movie was The Sandlot – I don’t know why, considering I didn’t play baseball, but perhaps the reason why I loved it so much is the exact same reason why Petite League’s music speaks to me so coherently. Though I am blessed to have had a quiet, happy childhood, I didn’t really have the sort of ragtag, rambunctious, skin-your-knee kind of childhood or the sort of rebellious, lovesick adolescence I saw in these sorts of movies – or perhaps I just didn’t notice it or take advantage when it was happening. Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I’m trying to make more of a conscious effort to remember my best, most vivid memories during that time and to evoke that sort of carefree, inspired happiness in my life any way I can – to simply try and just have fun without thinking about why I’m doing it. Despite the occasional heartsick lyric every now and again, Petite League’s music will always be one of the immediate gateways into that pure, wholesome feeling, and I’ll forever be grateful for it. 

And though I admit I could probably expound for days on why this album is so wonderful, it will never come close to Gillis Cook’s own thoughts on the album, which he shared earlier today: 

Rattler is a record about self-care and self-destruction. It’s about toeing the line of being an oblivious ego tripper and a walking introspective panic attack. It’s about falling in love with someone so terrifying its exciting and leaving it because life is all too exciting and terrifying. It’s about the skittish hum of New York City and the piercing silence in the middle of nowhere. It’s about growing up and being happy and it’s about growing up and learning what that really means. 

And, to sum it all up, in a year where everyone wrote their cowboy album, it’s just about being the rattlesnake.”

Rattler is out today via Zap World Records, Lorenzo Gillis Cook and Henry Schoonmaker’s new label. Vinyl is also available!

 

 

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Fox Academy – “Apple”

One of my favorite things in art is romanticizing the subtle things in life, consciously drawing out the hidden beauty of what are perpetually seen as the mundanities that come with existence. Angel Hair – the newest LP from Michael Todd Berland and Christian Novelli of Portland’s Fox Academy – succeeds in doing just that, and gorgeously so, showcasing sixteen hyper-aware, specific, thoughtfully written narratives marking and exposing the latent vulnerability in everyday life. The album is the follow up to the 2017 release Saint Molly, written and recorded  in a two-bedroom apartment and described by Novelli as “inspired by gas station mini marts, walking home late at night, the feeling of approaching danger, wedding cakes, warm showers, fast food, doing laundry, and watching basketball at a sports bar.” Angel Hair is a more collaborative effort, featuring guest production from TV Girl and additional vocals from fellow indie artists Skirts and Ghost Orchard, as well as various others. Like it’s predecessor, it still features a similar set of ironically seamless images and non-sequiturs and comparing them to cinematic scenes, evoking the smell of sunscreen and the bright yellow paint of a soaring dirt bike mid-lament in the nostalgic “Make Me Cry,” expressing a period of genuine introspection in between episodes of the Simpsons and gazing out the window in “Lifestyle Magazine.” 

Every track feels lived in, but simultaneously teary-eyed, faded, tired, the equivalent of helplessness felt trying to hold everything inside while it pours out of you. The beautiful thing about stand out “Apple” is that it doesn’t keep it inside, not in the slightest. The narrative, set to minimal, sparse guitar strums, is the somber, repeated feeling of guilt, an apology, a rejection of the self –  and yet with the small, yet highly specific details – golden crisp apples, the red tint of blushing cheeks, an impromptu game of pickup basketball – it feels representative of something so blissfully and painfully real, something ultimately worth working through. At the closer he admits that “my heart hurts/ it stops and it flutters,” which, in hindsight, seems like a thesis for the album as a whole – stopping to recognize and understand what makes you feel, even if it’s just a burst of sadness on a routine drive to the laundromat, a moment of lucidity as you stare up at the ceiling. 

Angel Hair is out now.

Berland also has a solo project under the name Beagles, which I also recommend if you’re in need of even more lo-fi – a link to the self-titled debut will also be down below.


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photo courtesy of artist

PURRPURR – “Nagano”

The newest synth stunner from duo PURRPURR has been on constant rotation for kwav over this past month, every single time leaving me awash with fascination at the way the narrative jumps out from its textured surroundings, despite it being sung entirely in Swedish. The third official single from Tobias Widman and Felix Hedberg, “Nagano” follows the moody “Aldig som dig” (“Never Like You”) and the upbeat “Francis,” and will eventually be part of their debut EP planned for release later this year via Fading Trails Recordings. The single slowly builds in strength and amplifies before hitting the main vocals, which swell and sway effortlessly inbetwixt meticulous beats and supersonic tones. The narrative is short but sweet, leading into a fantastical melodic interlude that pulsates and sparkles, fading as delicately as it arrived. The track also comes with an accompanying music video, following the slo-mo adventures of a mustachioed, roller-skating nomad after his car runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Surprisingly, it fits the vibe pretty well. 

P.S. If anyone understands Swedish and would be willing to translate the lyrics for us, it would be much appreciated.

 

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photo courtesy of artist