20. Trickster's wedding
August 9th, 2020

Lianne La Havas - Lianne La Havas
(File under: music, rain, breakups, linguistics, wolves)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

Sun showers: Easily the worst kind of weather.

I should’ve prepared you for a message from our sister organisation, the Department of Challenging but Undeniable Truths, but look: Rain is for propagating melancholy, and sunshine is for passing the time in shorts while waiting for more rain. The two combined are emotionally inscrutable and impossible to dress for, but maybe there’s hope for sun showers—in linguistics, and in breakup records.

I’d never even used the phrase ‘sun shower’ until a few months ago. I was looking up an old David Bazan song called ‘The Devil is Beating His Wife’ and instead found myself on this Wikipedia page, where I discovered a goldmine of folklore—dozens of regional idioms for when the sun shines through rainfall, most of which involve weddings between trickster animals, the devil doing reprehensible things, or witches making butter. ‘Mushroom rain’, ‘ghost rain’, ‘fox rain’—even if the veracity of these examples is up for debate, the imagery goes a long way towards redeeming the weather it describes.

Which leads me to this Lianne La Havas record, obviously.

If every album has its own weather system, then Lianne La Havas sits beneath a sun shower, and not just because summer rain is name-checked within the first 90 seconds. It’s a folk-soul breakup record full of songs that sound simultaneously rain-slick and sun-drunk, suffused with the grief of a dissolved relationship but still admirably self-possessed. Not many people could cover Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes’ and make Thom Yorke’s descent into undersea murk sound like a triumphant exit. The chorus to ‘Bittersweet’, the opening track, is where all this weather talk takes us. Thanks to time and patience, La Havas is born again, refreshed and renewed. The metaphor she chooses for feeling that grand realignment? Wolves marrying jackals.

Sun showers: I take it back. You're alright.

Dept. of Enthusiasm is a charmingly sporadic email from me, Jez Burrows. You can read some past issues, or sign up below.