Hey Marseilles is a Seattle act that deserves recognition beyond the inner sanctum of the Northwest. Made up of seven members who could easily pass for guest stars on Portlandia with the number of eclectic instruments they play (mandolin, accordion, viola, I-shit-you-not drumbourine), these chill guys make some catchy indie-folk-pop.
I once saw the full band live at Bumbershoot, and they were fittingly fantastic, though at the time I had no idea who they were. About a year ago, I went with fellow bloggers Vincent and Kevin to the Seattle Art Museum to check out an exhibit for free at SAM’s Teen Night Out. Lo and behold, the cellist from Hey Marseilles, Samuel Anderson, provided live underscore for the viewing of such gorgeous art. I was so sucked in by the music, I couldn’t look around; Vincent, Kevin and I sat for a few moments in silence, just taking it in. Sadly, not many others appreciated his incredible talent and talked over him. It was quite upsetting to see a talented musician hung out to dry like that.
Founded in 2006 by two students at the University of Washington who liked to jam out at GasWorks Park (where a few friends and I used to jam out as well), the membership quickly grew to seven people with the amount of instruments outnumbering the players.
Their song “Rio” exemplifies this diverse approach to music. Their arrangements are refined and detailed, never throwing in too much at once but never far from full. They incorporate latin-tinged beats with an infectious clap-filled opening, a perfect trumpet solo and neat string arrangements. The use of a nylon-string guitar (or a soundalike) is a nice touch as well.
In “Rio”, the lyricism is bright, but never sappy. They know what reality is; what they present is an optimistically realistic view of the world.
My favorite lyrics have to occur in the second verse, when the singer apparently speaks to a platonic female (or male) friend, lovelorn and lonely. He’s speaking to the single population, and it’s relatable:
Love is a hazard in lower Manhattan
You cannot escape, and mustn’t be saddened
By men who abandon your eyes for another
There are always Brazilian boys to discover
Set your sights straight now
Don’t forget pain
Drink ’til tomorrow becomes yesterday
Think of the shorelines you have yet to see
Men who will hold you with eyes you believe
It’s a beautiful sentiment, expressed beautifully. How often do you see “Manhattan” rhymed with “saddened”? “Don’t forget pain”, but “drink ’til tomorrow becomes yesterday”? Brilliant. It’s real, but hopeful. Sad, but optimistic. It gets better. As Mel Brooks once wrote, you’ll find your happiness in Rio.
If anyone was ever in a bad romantic mood, I’d play them this song first.
Right-click to download: Download: ‘Rio’ (MP3)