Ethan Recommends: “La La Lie” by Basia Bulat

“La La Lie” will always feel to me like a train rushing through the dark away from a humiliating strikeout.

It was 2016, and I’d spent the evening at an event where I’d hoped to gladhand important people who might boost my career. This was supposed to be the first night of the rest of my life, but when my shot came, I’d tumbled into a morass of uncomfortable eye contact and awkward mumbling. I’d slinked back into the train station and popped in my earbuds to drown out the voice in my head shouting, You fucked that up.

I hit shuffle, and first up was “La La Lie,” a song that kicks off with driving intensity and never lets up. Where so many songs shift between high gears and lower ones to give the listener breathing room, Bulat’s only grows increasingly urgent until the final minute is close to ecstatic frenzy.

It’s a song about lying to yourself, and knowing that you are, but clinging to the illusion because the only alternative is to allow entrance to a disastrous pain. But where some artists might wring bathos from that premise, Bulat evokes frantic euphoria, the high-strung thrill of seeing how long you can keep an illusion afloat. It’s an intoxicating song that provokes a sort of headrush, recreating that giddy feeling of testing how long you can hold your breath, your mind reeling as you hear the blood throbbing in your ears.

The night of my spectacular failure, I stepped onto the train in despair, but I stepped off two stops later dizzy with excitement. Maybe I was being too hard on myself. Maybe I would look back on the night as a massive success. Part of me knew the truth, but I let the other part flourish for a night. And maybe there’s some cracked integrity to living in a world of false hope as long as you can. If you can get away with the delusion, then maybe the really crazy thing would be to rob yourself of that short-lived relief. Even if it takes a (la la) lie or two to pull it off.

(Song recommendation by Ethan Warren)

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