How Love Begins
By Nicole Zuraitis
By Kabir Sehgal
They say there are only a few stories — or archetypes — in the world. Some of these include comedy, tragedy, rebirth, and the quest. While the plots and characters change in each retelling, the archetype remains. Nicole Zuraitis’ How Love Begins casts the familiar muse of love but in a fresh context. Through her remarkable production, she takes us on a sonic adventure down some familiar roads which seem to lead to untrammeled vistas where we can make sense of our feelings with considered perspective.
How Love Begins is a masterpiece on the meditation that has become modern love. Zuraitis soars as a conceptual composer, attentive arranger, virtuosic vocalist, and polished pianist. Yes, she has created a daring album with brutal realness and an emotional punch. This is the kind of album that gets handed down and passed around: “Listen to this. It will make you feel better.”
The heart of this album is its duality or suggested symmetry. Zuraitis formats the project with two parts (oil and water) with five selections each. The balance of repertoire reveals the harmony (and disharmony) of love. “As the age old saying goes, opposites attract,” says Zuraitis. The journey of love happens in phases, in which we have to cope with desires, realities, and the complexities and fragilities of human emotions.
The first section begins with a thunderous rumble of what’s to come. That feeling within when you start down the journey of love. In “The Good Ways,” Zuraitis warns “You’re simply dangerous, like shock waves” and later “A Iittle heat, a lot of spice/mysterious, never plays nice.” The adventure continues with “travel” in which Zuraitis reminds the listener: “The railroad track is miles away.” She explores the vicissitudes of daydreams in “Reverie” and how the mind grows occupied with “undeniable whirlpools of this fantasy.” Her piece “Let Me Love You” is a poetic highlight with Zuraitis wrestling with the question: “Will you ever let me love you?” and later “Does this game ever end?” We’ve all been there before. But at least now we have a song that keeps us company.
The final piece of the first section “Burn” is up-tempo and brisk. While the song grooves, the lyrics suggest wanting to find another: “I think I’ll finally try a new romance.” And speaking about burning: Gilad Hekselman (guitar) glides through the progression with angular lines, followed by Christian McBride (bass) with a punchy, walking solo.
The second section begins with water droplets. There’s a calming attribute to water because it can not only dampen a fire but nurture rebirth and growth. We dive into the deep with “Two fish” where Zuraitis admires, “how great, the depth of their love.” The feel-good “well planned, well played” opens with the humorous “Caffeine and affirmations / Compelling conversations.” This is a recipe of modern love, where you feel good one moment, yet you can be “deeply overwhelmed.” The album ends with three thought-provoking numbers: “20 Seconds,” “Like Dew,” and “The Garden.” Through the beautiful music, there’s one thing that shines through – hope.
Despite the ups-and-downs of love, the default programming of hope is for the best. We can easily become cynics, but accepting the full range of human emotions is the stuff of life. When you see love as a balancing act, you become more balanced.
With How Love Begins, Zuraitis breathes fresh life into the love-as-muse archetype with her absorbing accounting. It’s a beautiful and moving album with lyrics so luminous that will help you find the glimmer of light in the foggiest of times. Brava.