“Alarms in the Heart” is the opening, eponymous track on Dry the River’s second album. Before we even get into the music, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the album art. As I’m sure you learned from our interview with Nova Ren Suma last week, I’m into the strange and unexplained.
Growing up, I always wanted to be a witch for Halloween. Ghostly, witchy, magical stories thrilled me, and I’d lie awake in my bed at night, trying to summon objects from across the room. I’d imagine casting a spell on girls and boys in my class who’d made fun of me, and I’d imagine going into a trance to communicate with the spirit world. Tarot cards, in particular, intrigued me. I wanted to one day find a long-lost, hand-drawn deck in the dusty, tucked-away antique shop where I grew up. I wanted it to lead me to deep, dark, and dangerous places.
I would’ve also been happy with an old, dusty Ouija board.
And that’s why I’m so infatuated with this artwork. Everything about it is spot on. It’s kitschy and earnest at the same time. There’s the woman wearing a ring on every finger, with her silk robe on and thick shadows behind her. The gaudy tablecloth and the ornate, intriguing Tarot deck speak to me. I have to believe that everything was arranged just so for this album art. It complements the title track so well.
The first sound we hear is a scratchy organ note, and Peter Liddle’s vocals come in gentle and sweet. Halfway through the first verse, a clean guitar tone comes in and the organ disappears. Heavenly, the harmonized ahh’s soar beneath the main vocals. Once the chorus arrives, the song has a lot more kick—it finally has a pulse.
The last lines of the chorus tie the song and the artwork together. “I heard it before now that we don’t listen very much to alarms in the heart.”
I do have a Tarot deck. My friend gave it to me for my birthday a few years ago. When I use it, I don’t try to predict the future or talk with spirits. Instead I use it as a tool to search my own heart, to drill into my subconscious and pull out things that I might be too afraid to deal with in my everyday thoughts and actions. I use it for self-awareness. I use it to find the truths I already know in the deepest parts of me, those “alarms in the heart.” Like the song says, the hardest part is actually listening to them.
After you hear “Alarms in the Heart,” you should give “Hidden Hands” and “New Ceremony” by Dry the River a try.