Earworms: The Music of Words

Lisa Mezzacappa/Katy Stephan/Michelle AmadorEarworms (planBmusic, 2008)

It’s a pop CD! Pop songs of all stripes, ricocheting from one style to another as Lisa Mezzacappa and songwriting/vocalist partners Katy Stephan and Michelle Amador present music inspired by individual words.

Beyond the CD, Earworms is an interesting and often fun art-installation project by Deborah Aschheim. She’s created sculptures, like the one above, using favorite words as inspiration — “node” for the piece pictured above, for instance.

The pieces are multimedia in nature, with video or music as part of the installment, and of course that’s where the CD comes in. Earworms‘ 18 songs relate to 16 different words in Aschheim’s ongoing project, and Mezzacappa & Co. clearly had a great time matching moods to the titles.

“Swoon” appropriately gets played to moonlit Parisian cafe jazz. “Pout” becomes a smoky jazz stroll. “Node” is stretched and abstract; “Crazy” piles spoken voices together to get into your head. “Like” is hysterical — ’60s beach music with, like, this girl’s voice and all?

Other songs treat the words as objects of their own. “Tarmac” gets picked because it was Aschheim’s first-ever computer password; it opens the album as a breezy pop song (a really good one) exploring the concept of literal social networks (the links among people we know). “Obviously” is a funny operatic song about how insulting the word “obviously” can be.

“Palimpsest,” one of my own favorite words, comes out surprisingly pretty and thoughtful. The inclusion of “Ice Knife” is perplexing until you read the book excerpt that makes up the lyrics — it’s about literal ice knives as assassins’ weapons, and it’s kind of cool.

Don’t forget, too, that Mezzacappa traces her musical roots back to metal; she didn’t leave that out. Little surprises like that add to what’s already a delightful package of songs. You’ll find it on CD Baby or at some of Mezzacappa’s shows.