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Carrie Furniss – ‘Bitter and Sweet’


Carrie Furniss’s Bitter and Sweet is aptly described as “bedroom pop”; there is a charming, homemade quality to these spare, synth-based soundscapes. The genre applies lyrically as well as sonically, with isolation as a central theme. “Spend a day away, won’t see another person,” she sings on “Living a Life.” “Draw the blinds, turn down the lights / Get close to me and ruin my life.”

Playfully and with good humor, Furniss explores the masochistic appeal of solitude, and how it facilitates both introspection and self-loathing. “I should call you on the phone, so I don’t feel alone,” she acknowledges, before wryly adding, “But I’m busy over here hurting my own feelings.” When there are “No eyes on me / Only my own on me,” her inner critic “steps from the wings” and mercilessly takes her down. This soliloquy of fault-finding is set to a jazzy instrumental, like the accompaniment to an ironic strip tease: “I’m a bad, bad girl / Doing nothing / Good for nothing.” And of course, any account of modern loneliness is incomplete without parasocial angst: “I sit alone and watch the screen… Her dress is prettier than me.”

Sitting alone in your bedroom might be self-imposed hell, but for an introvert the alternative is worse. On the supremely catchy “Politician,” Furniss gives lengthy descriptions of forced social interaction: “If you looked at my face you would see that it’s contorted / Force my eyes to twinkle like the stars, but you don’t notice.” Upbeat music contrasts comically with biting lyrics: “I’m lying to your face, like a politician.”

Furniss further dislocates the listener on “Not Home,” forgoing narrative in favor of impressionism: “Time to say goodnight / Foggy like baby powder rising toward the light… Primary colors stepping to the side.” Over darkly pulsing synths, her voice slowly ascends into a lovely upper register. The combined effect is of an aria sung over the Twin Peaks theme, and in the midst of this moody haze she returns to the topic of social anxiety: “I can’t share the moment / I can’t live in the moment now.”

On “Bitter and Sweet,” she sets the scene in public, at an open mic. Here she marvels at another musician’s ability to “share the moment” with an audience: “You have them eating from your hands / Convolution as a brand / And they don’t understand / And they love a challenge.” She compares her musicianship to theirs unfavorably: “I’m trailing behind, you’re elevated.” She is unsure whether her own performance will win anyone over: “How do you sell what you think is broken?”

But Furniss answers her own question in a striking chorus, her vocals distorted to great effect by a vocoder: “You’re only as important as you say you are / So you say it a lot, so we can hear / Loud and clear, for the back / Copy that.” Everyone struggles with anxiety and imposter syndrome; the only way forward is to fake it till you make it; confidence can be spoken into existence.

By the conclusion of verse two, it’s Furniss’s turn to perform. She has, for the moment, banished anxiety and come out of seclusion: “I give myself a wink in the mirror / Strut right out and give myself away.”

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