Premiere: Cricket Blue’s Subtle Magic Glimmers on “Alicia From The Store”

Cricket Blue © Monika Rivard
Cricket Blue © Monika Rivard
Cricket Blue craft a melancholy, melodically whimsical slice of life on their first album single “Alicia From The Store.”
“Alicia From The Store” – Cricket Blue
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Does a body worry if you keep it inside?

In a whirl of close-pressed harmonies and a mix of the mundane and the vivid, Cricket Blue dispatch a poignant slice of life from the inside of a grocery store. Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the first single from their upcoming album, Serotinalia (due out May 10). The instrumentation of “Alicia From The Store” belies the song’s prosaic setting; finger-picked acoustic guitars and a string quartet offer the song an out of time and place quality. It might be more easily picked out of a Renaissance fair than from the modern stage, which makes sense, given that the pair’s shared Vermont alma mater looks right out of a storybook.

Serotinalia - Cricket Blue
Serotinalia – Cricket Blue (art by Leslie Fry)

Laura Heaberlin and Taylor Smith met in an a cappella group before joining the folk scene of their Vermont town. If you’ve never sung a cappella, it can be easy to rely on Pitch Perfect stereotypes to inform the genre, but it does require an high attention to detail and a precise ear – both of which Heaberlin and Smith clearly have. Their harmonies are close and balanced, often dipping into unconventional intervals before resurfacing. Heaberlin’s voice is quiet and intimate, with a birdsong-like clarity that blends perfectly with Smith’s tenor. Their strengths as musicians are helpfully padded by their strengths as storytellers. They are both writers, filling up notebooks with character ideas and plotlines before sitting down the write a song.

The song tells the story of a college-aged grocery store clerk observing her coworker, Alicia. The speaker seems saddened by Alicia’s life as she watches her take cigarette breaks in the parking lot and get into the cars of men who Alicia claims are “dogs.” They stock green fruit together and throw away the overripe, Alicia wondering aloud what “becomes of all the fruit we throw away.” The fruit metaphor becomes further enmeshed in the story as fruit flies land on Alicia’s face while she stands outside. The song is made up of small, mundane moments. And yet, these tiny minutiae are juxtaposed with starkly vivid images: the hard green fruit, Alicia’s brown lipstick, her soft hair that smells like smoke, the juice running down her sleeve, and a particularly jarring lyric, “Sometimes their eyes have felt like hands slipping fingers in my collar.” Here, Alicia references the men she abhors, the men she allows into her life. All of this startling imagery, like the instrumentation itself, gives the grocery store a sense of unreality, of magic. The song begins and ends with a question: “Does a body worry if you keep it inside?” These bookends allow the song to transcend its specifics, and what makes the entire thing feel slightly like a fairytale.

Does a body worry if you keep it inside?
Does it feel home? Can a body survive?
Will you take it to the cellar, the bones and the tether,
lay the bones of the dog and the body together?
Does the body worry if you keep it in?
Cricket Blue © Monika Rivard
Cricket Blue © Monika Rivard

What makes the story of this song successful is not so much the story itself, but the way it’s told. Alicia is centered as the crux of the narrative, but has no voice of her own, other than what the speaker chooses to relay. It is a story of observation, of voyeurism, of sympathy, of judgment. The speaker remains nameless while she crafts a tale of Alicia’s life, seldom mentioning her own situation until a poignant moment when Alicia asks where she goes (to school) and “how much [her] parents pay.” It is not actually even clear what the gender of the speaker is – I only make this assumption due to Heaberlin acting as the main voice. The song acts as an observation on how we craft others’ narratives, how we take in the details of their lives and spin their stories for them. These two characters’ lives converge only for an instant in time, and we’re left to wonder if Alicia will live on in the speaker’s memory. Heaberlin says of the album, “If you just write about yourself all the time, you’re limited in what you’re able to say.” Its brilliance is subtle, and if the entirety of Serotinalia is crafted this way, it will be a gorgeous piece of work.

“Alicia From The Store” – Cricket Blue
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? © Monika Rivard
art by Leslie Fry

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