Coming of age is a state so difficult to explain; with its ups and its downs, its laughs and its frowns (and there aren’t anymore rimes for that). Making decisions, getting used to life, knowing how to deal with situations… Growing up has been a lot of film makers concern as it is so rich in emotions and strong feelings. Not a lot of them have been able to capture the essence of teenage years in their true form, with the exception of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
We’ve seen cancer in The Fault in Our Stars, My Sisters Keeper, and all that cliché stuff we’ve all got lying around in our Young Adults collection; but this is one of a kind. A delicate portrait of how these terrible extremes of life could affect each and every one of us: told through the invigorating eye of Greg, 17 year old boy swimming through the decisions that one may encounter in the beginning of their adult life. The film is actually a film within a film, which somehow makes us forget the story is just a series of images on our screens; a fresh and fragile mise en abyme.
No doubt an emotional rollercoaster, soaring through the comedy of high school and stereotypical teenage life, then suddenly dropping down to the chills of illness and grief; Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a slowly unrolling piece of poetry, snippets of a metaphorical life climaxing into the act of creating – represented by Greg and Earl.
These days, young Irish indie musicians gorged with talent seem to be popping up from every corner. Hozier, Villagers and now James Vincent McMorrow with his debut album Early in the Morning. The industry seems to be falling for his pitch-perfect voice and powerful vocal range, as well as his great performing abilities.
Mr McMorrow seems to have started an addiction to falsettos at some point in his life and still hasn’t had to chance to get to rehab. Falsettos, falsettos and more falsettos: that’s what hits me the most in his songs. He has an incredible diversity in his voice, and even though he sometimes overuses these high pitched sounds, it proves his acute aptitude to mould his voice into many different tones.
My personal favorite on this album, If I Had A Boat, throws you into the heart of the song with once again his characteristic harmonies – which are pretty seemless, nice job, kiddo – and a catchy folk resonance with a light tambourine rythm in the background. I can’t quite understand what he’s on about, but the lyrics seem vaguely familiar due to the recuring theme of water. The chorus comes up and seems to me like a slap in the face quickly followed by a soothing stroke with it’s background ooh’s: that’s what James Vincent McMorrow does to you.
One single instrument, one single voice, and yet written so well that it empowers you in a way that a whole orchestra would sweat it’s brow to succeed at. The simple and soothing melody just glides through your ears and gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling in your gut: take a deep breath and enjoy the simplicity and emotion of Eddie Vedder’s Guaranteed, written for “Into The Wild”.
To begin with, I just couldn’t go without mentioning that fabulous pick: a bass line and melody tuned in with Vedder’s voice. The lyrics are so powerful, uplifting and universal but yet still abstract in their own way “Circles they grow and they swallow people whole […] A mind full of questions and a teacher in my soul”. The words weave together so many different themes like love, the simplicity of life, time passing “Wind in my hair I feel part of everywhere” (beautiful line by the way) and especially, hiding behind the simple melody, a strong critique of society. My favorite bit of this social satire is “I know the rules but the rules do not know me”. So personal but so brilliantly valid for any person out there. I love the way it describes the immensity of life.
Another important aspect of this song for me is Eddie Vedder’s voice. At first, I couldn’t stand it, but I grew to like the crackle and rumple in it: imperfections like that make music so much more touching and approachable. It makes it real.
This song was written for the movie “Into The Wild” which is definitely one of my favorite films ever. It’s the story of a young man who is fed up with society and decides to go out into the wild and face great big Alaska armed with nothing but a rusty old broken caravan. It is so terribly thought provoking, a beautiful, brilliant, marvelous portrait of existence that widens your perspective on life a whole lot. For me, Guaranteed is the song that represents that trait of the film the most throughout all of the soundtrack.
Just makes you want to grasp life: go make lemonade out of those lemons.