“lorelei” – cocteau twins (1984)


Change is constant in life. We are all bound to the chaotic nature of life. There is a certain comforting madness to the unpredictability of existence. With the right frame of mind, it is something with which we can change the meaning. While we may not be able to control the situation, we can control how we view and react to it.

The weather in Chicago this last year has been unpredictable. This last winter was incredibly difficult on a number of different levels. While I can usually tolerate the cold and find solace in falling snow, the extreme bitter temperatures and pop-up blizzards felt stifling. I was also experiencing some personal issues and being constantly confined indoors was not helping. I live in Chicago and I know the winters can be brutal. I can accept that. I’ve conquered Chicago winters before and I knew I would again, but this last winter was exceptionally hard. I wanted summer. I wanted heat. I wanted an escape.

As the hounds of winter began retreating in March, glimmers of spring appeared rarely and without warning. It was a shock to the system to walk outside and feel winter’s grip loosening when I realized that I wouldn’t need a jacket that day. I knew the warmth and beauty that was to come. I fantasized and fetishized the summer season. The light touch of the sun’s rays on my bare arms was all I wanted. I wanted the sun to be my gentle lover and hold me as we walked through the blooming, dewy gardens together.

As spring turned into summer, the days became heavier and longer. Intense and sweaty, I was engrossed with the passion that comes with the dog days of summer. At times the embrace of the sun became stifling and reprieve was sought in the form of indoor air conditioning and a beer. My relationship with the sun was still there, but I needed some space.

This week, the first signs of fall were present. The temperatures in Chicago were as low as 61 and people on the train were prepared with their sweaters. I knew the sudden change in weather was fleeting. Those hot days would be back. Though when they do eventually come slinking back, it won’t be the same. Summer will end and I know where those hot, sultry days will go. It is almost the end of August. It is a month of change and transition. There are no holidays in August to distract us or to celebrate a historical moment. The celebration and appreciation of life in August is more internal and unspoken. Fall is coming with its muted, auburn tones; a dark-haired beauty that is inviting with tinges of a chilling independence. This love affair with summer is ending, so we make the most of it.

“Lorelei” by the Cocteau Twins is one of my favorite songs for this time of year. The ethereal mouth music of this Scottish band offers a wispy intimacy. It is an exciting blend of light touches and passion that throws you into the arms of ecstasy while standing on the edge of oblivion. It is the sound of dancing on a tightrope; hold tightly to each other or you will fall. There are these strong moments of living in the present but the beautiful sadness this love affair will end.

The Cocteau Twins are known for their musical style. “Lorelei” on a musical level is deep with reverb echo, and muted instrumentation. The drum beats are intensely driving the music but the production keeps them in the background and softens their impact. Strewn throughout are twinkly piano chords, a deep bass, and a wavering guitar that draw a curtain across the track. They add a textural value while distancing the listener from the band. When we look at the curtain, who we see on the other end is obscured. This blurring of the musical arrangement emphasizes the ethereal tone and lilting voice of lead singer Elizabeth Fraser.

When I visualize “Lorelei,” I visualize a crisp summer day as seen through a filter not unlike one on Instagram. I’m looking at the picture of a young woman with a loose sweater, wide-brimmed hat, and striking red lipstick that separates her mouth from her soft, pale skin. Green leaves on the trees with some hints of lime green and yellow poking through signifying a visual change.

Lyrically, “Lorelei” is an intensely intimate song. It is about two lovers coming together and succumbing to their desires covered by sacred fire. They make love with a sense of finality. The partners feel guilty cannot help but fulfill a carnal need that is so sacred to them that is a divine act. Could this be their last moment together before the sun goes down on the love they shared? Possibly. They make love and they can go, as Fraser sings

This song goes deep for me as it offers an escape. Like the lovers in the song, it is about enjoying the here and now; a moment that chisels a permanent spot in the mind and heart. It is a treasure to be enjoyed forever. While you may not enjoy the benefits as if it were the first time, it is something to look back on fondly during the difficult times. And it will never be the last time as long as it lives inside you. Even then, new memories with new people will come. Winter is coming, but spring will be back again someday. It is still sunny and warm out, so enjoy it while you can. Live in the moment and find solace in the finality of a singular moment, but the lasting nature of a memory.