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Standout Track: No. 4, “Give It a Knife,” a terse and jittery departure within Michel’s self-recorded debut. Much of These Are Beautiful Things channels such downtempo electro-folk-pop stalwarts as Ben Gibbard; “Knife” finds its composer layering glitches and aching vocals over a driving snare. The result is somehow both languid and caffeinated.
Musical Motivation: Michel considers “Knife” a particularly apt example of what he considers “the theme” of Beautiful Things: “Basically, trying to remain hopeful while holding on to the realistic aspects of life.”
“You’re 28…hoping you’d have had these things accomplished, but you’re still a bartender,” says the singer-songwriter and, yes, bartender. You just keep on working toward your goals, he says, “because what else can you do?”
The lyrics are a “call and response: The verses say basically, ‘Get up and do something—motivate.’ Then the chorus is the bummer.” To wit: “You’re fighting for air and drinking alone, you better/Wake up, wake up, how hard could it be?” asks the first verse; the chorus answers “Love it isn’t safe/You give it a knife and watch it maim.”
“I stole the loop from a Matthew Sweet song,” he admits, referring to Sweet’s 1991 hit, “Girlfriend.” In fact, Michel cops to “stolen leads from various places,” manipulated until nearly unrecognizable. “I couldn’t afford studio time, so that’s why I did that….I tried to make [Beautiful Things] sound like a real record, rather than something some dude did in his room.” —Anne Marson