Written By: Andrew Sedo
Berlin’s Babyalligator crafts a somber representation of the seemingly unending ebb and flow of depression on Light Your Fires. Composed over a year and half period, the album is compressed into an impressionistic portrait of one extremely long day. The opening “am (Bad Days)” has protagonist Hannah Reinhardt explaining her morning routine in shockingly intense detail. She turns her attention towards those close to her that make life livable and yet somehow add to her insecurity, “And I know it’s not fair that I ask you to stay / When I want to leave / But I’m going nowhere” where she summarizes the need for companionship, the associated guilt, and the dichotomy of suicidal escapism in a battle with the ever present will to survive. Babyalligator is a postmodern heroine on a titanic quest. In her case, the mission seems to be to live for others, and try to find light in her mind.
Throughout Light Your Fires, a surreal beauty emerges from the darkness. Increasingly somber and self-deprecating lyrics, couple with concise and at times, jarringly simplistic compositions that serve as a supplement for never ending non-existence. Beneath the surface, there is a Sylvia Plath level of descriptive poeticism that blends the sadly symbolic, with the shatteringly straight-forward. One of the best examples comes on “Take Me Home” where Hannah begs for release, “My pillows are made of silk, my teeth are closed around gold / I’m on the wrong side of the river but I’m not alone / The boatman is holding my hand / He’s come to take me home.” It’s hard to explain the feeling of desperation that comes with having everything and yet feeling so lost. It is this hunger and this inability to explain that colors most of Light Your Fires in a dark grey cloud that lingers and surrounds the listener but never comes close to succumbing to that specific suffocating black vacuum.
Perhaps the best summary of the album comes from Hannah’s own mind, “In secret codes I spell the words / That I don’t dare to say out loud / It hurts so much to realise / That they will never be found / The truth will stay buried in sound”, as she explains how her autobiography is buried beneath her music. Even though she tries her damnedest to describe how it feels, we will never be able to feel her exact brand of pain. While she may be right in this assertion, we can do our best to empathize with her predicament, that is simultaneously beyond her control and ironically, firmly rooted in the depths of her own mind.
Thus, Light Your Fires is not an experience or a confession, but a declaration that sympathy is, in itself, insufficient in dealing with crippling depression. She doesn’t want to drag people down as she explains on the bookend “pm (Bad Habits)”, “All the kindness that burns / Just like salt in my unworthy wounds / That brain-eating disease…”, helping her, although admirable and kind, is a doomed endeavor that only makes things worse when one takes any interaction as a symptom of obligation. Light Your Fires is an apocryphal tale, a lyrical epic, that describes the journey of one person. However, we can certainly respect her power to keep vanquishing her daily dragon, and turning her task into something sublime.