in Music

Underrated Artist: Hey Marseilles

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I have never been shy about sharing my love for the banjo. If you don’t already know, let me tell you: if there’s a banjo anywhere in the instrument line-up of a song, chances are I will fall madly in love with it.

(There’s probably a joke about Deliverance and movie soundtracks somewhere in there, but I’m just going to stray away from that territory in the name of common decency – along with my inability to come up with an appropriately comic phrasing.)

But, the banjo isn’t my only love. There’s also it’s sweet, much more robust cousin: the accordion.

Hey Marseilles is a band from Seattle, Washington and one of the things I love about it is its heavy use of accordion.

The band falls in the category of “accordion pop” – hence my rambling about accordions for far too long. It’s a genre that utilizes lots of acoustic instruments and arranges tunes so that they sound vaguely worldly.  Of the instruments found in various Hey Marseilles songs, I’m pretty sure the accordion is the most common.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about possibly pioneering a new musical term, I’m here to talk about the band.

Here are some of my favorite Hey Marseilles songs:

Elegy

I love you
for your wit
not for the shit
you spout in your sleep

Like many songs from this band, “Elegy” brings forth feelings of change (hence lyrics about leaves changing, etc.) and travel. The instruments sort of bumble along at a restrained yet casual pace. This song makes me feel good.

Calabasas 

Take what you need from the words I leave
From the windowsill and blue concrete
If the roads weren’t long in the southern states
We would stretch our legs in Oregon gray

Once again, we’ve got a song that evokes feelings of travel. This time, the lyrics suggest it in a much more overt way. As with the previous song, things start off slowly, but eventually it builds to a grand crescendo that I can’t get enough of.

From a Terrace

Find your way sipping on saline and lemonade
jumping off cliffsides in northern bays
hope your dollars dance
look away sing for salvation from day to day

Once again: travel! Here, though, the lyrics seem to suggest positive connotations, side by side with more melancholy emotions. This song is broken up into three parts: the first and last sections tell one story, while the middle section gets ridiculously peppy and somehow very late-1800s Romanian camp. Without that middle bit, this song would definitely lose some of its awesomeness.

Rio

On the way I will go
Where the days left to breathe
Are not gone, are still long
I am traveling on

Hey, references to travel again. It’s never ending, but in a good way. I’m pretty sure this is the most popular song the band has, and chances are you’ve heard this one somewhere – whether it was in an ad, or a movie, or I dunno – that old fashioned thing known as the radio? I want to end on this one because it’s so much more hopeful than the last song. Here, we’ve got a pretty straightforward tune about the joys of seeing the world.

Well, that’s all for Hey Marseilles, but I’d suggest checking out their first album, To Travels and Trunks, because when listened to in order, the songs tell one cohesive and awesome story.