Further into Songs // Dirty Beaches – “Lord Knows Best”

“Further into Songs” is a new PHW feature that digs deeper into the roots and inspirations behind great songs.  And the best part is that it comes directly from the artists themselves, so I don’t have to make any of it up.


Dirty Beachesforthcoming Badlands is a record that splits evenly between harrowing Suicide and surf-rock inspired bangers and aching, starlit ballads of love and nostalgia.  “Lord Knows Best”, which falls in with the latter group, is a highlight – not just of the album, but of the year so far.  I caught up recently with Dirty Beaches songwriter Alex Zhang Huntai, and here he sheds some light on the way his own personal transience informs the album, as well as the longing, nostalgia, and Francois Hardy sample “Lord Knows Best” is built around.

Alex Zhang Huntai:

I’ve been a fan of Francoise Hardy for a long time, but have never thought about sampling “Voila”.  It’s a beautiful song about being still in love with your old flame even though you’re with someone new, as the sceneries around you change, and time goes on almost unnoticed.  I didn’t want to fuck around with it, or dilute it in any way, it’s such a flawless song.

“Lord Knows Best” came by accident as I was looking through French pop samples for loops and came upon “Voila” over and over again.  I wrote my vocals and lyrics in 5 minutes, and came up with the choral harmonies on a keyboard, and recorded it live immediately as a demo tape.  I think my thievery of “Voila” worked because it wasn’t based on stealing the surface aesthetics, but instead relaying a timeless content that matched up with its original source.

It’s about longing for someone an ocean apart from you, reassuring that person as you tread through nameless streets, and winding valleys, that you’ll be home after all this shit.   Real love can fuck you up and turn a man into a bitch.  Real talk right here.

I’m not from Montreal, and I don’t see myself as someone that holds loyalty to a certain geographical location, if there ever was one it would be Hawaii since I spent most of my prominent years there, from age 14-24.  Of all the cities I’ve resided in they are often remembered in fragments, and I try to reassemble these fractured landscapes into what some would simply describe as home. Thematically, the idea comes from a book called “The Future of Nostalgia” by Svetlana Boym.  My initial intrigue with the use of nostalgia in my music and the concept of home can be answered from this passage:

“Contrary to our intuition, nostalgia came from medicine, not from poetry or politics…Nostalgia was said to produce “erroneous representations” that caused the afflicted to lose touch with the present.  Longing for their native land became their single-minded obsession.  The patients acquired “a lifeless and haggard countenance,” and “indifference towards everything,” confusing past and present, real and imaginary events.  One of the early symptoms of nostalgia was an ability to hear voices or see ghosts…or to see one’s family again in dreams…the nostalgic had an amazing capacity for remembering sensations, tastes, sounds, smells, the minutiae and trivia of the lost paradise that those who remained home never noticed.”

If you had grown up in a foreign country and was forced to leave due to visa bullshit (and along the process lose your best friends, band, girl, everything) and kick start your whole life all over again at age 25, without knowing anyone in a new city, you’d probably feel the same way.  Nostalgia is a medical condition.  Home is where the heart sleeps at night.

MP3  :: Lord Knows Best

MP3  :: Sweet 17

Video  ::  Lord Knows Best

(from Badlands. Info here)




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6 responses to “Further into Songs // Dirty Beaches – “Lord Knows Best”

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