Today’s Song: Tirzah’s “Do You Know” Assembles Textures into an Amorphous Mantra

Tirzah © Clare Shilland
Tirzah © Clare Shilland
On “Do You Know,” producer Mica Levi equips British singer Tirzah, whose nebulous vocal performances manage to cut to the center of every song, with one of the most hypnotic loops in recent pop music. It makes for one of the most memorable and evocative tracks on Tirzah’s excellent debut album ‘Devotion’.
Stream: “Do You Know” – Tirzah

British songstress Tirzah and her close friend, Micachu (Mica Levi), delivered the gift of Devotion last summer, a collection of addictive and ceaselessly exhilarating love songs. Levi’s production on the record — largely comprised of glitchy piano loops, delicate drum machine programming, and ambient noise — contrasts beautifully with Tirzah’s razor-sharp voice.

Devotion - Tirzah
Devotion – Tirzah

If the music feels deconstructionist, even freeform, that’s because it designed that way. Some of Tirzah’s vocal parts were improvised, even though they sound polished and methodical. Levi’s beats twist and turn over the course of each track, never fully revealing their depths until the time is right. Her work on “Do You Know” — featuring ascending chimes and meticulous, slapping percussion — accentuates Tirzah’s howling vocals.

I think about the time
we were together and

I thought that I would call you
but I never could do it

I don’t get into begging
To make you want me back,
yeah it’s my pride

Do you know
Sometimes it’s like
I never even knew you

I’ll be feeling good cause
my head is thinking clearly

But all it takes it’s just a second
And there you are in front of me
Tirzah © Clare Shilland
Tirzah © Clare Shilland

The second track on the project, “Do You Know” finds Tirzah dissecting a romance gone awry. Her lyrics are empowering yet relatable in their occasionally self-aggrandizing qualities—like how she lets each individual syllable slip during the lines: “I thought that I would call you but I never could do it/ I don’t get into begging/ To make you want me back, yeah/ It’s my pride”. She has a knack for conveying a wide range of emotions, sometimes even contradictory ones, in simple, identifiable ways, such as her repetition of “do you know” and “be alone” throughout the bridge. Tirzah synthesizes guilt and satisfaction into a confident, but anxious, hybrid.

Tirzah makes romantic music, and describes it as such, though it is not self-pitying in the ways you might expect. Her sentiments are intuitive, not heavy-handed. When she uses common phrases, she does so in a conversational manner, as if she were a friend confiding in you secretly, rather than a singer revealing her thoughts to a global audience. Her honesty, in particular, is breathtaking—she strikes a chord with the line, “This silent treatment doesn’t stop me bugging,” reaching unusual levels of empathy for music that is so emotionally direct and literal. In fact, the most heart wrenching segment of the song, her third verse, drives home precisely this point: “Do you know/ I think I’ll be fine if you met someone/ It’s not even like we were doing nothing, no/ I just need to find something that will take me back to, how, I was before.”

Tirzah © Clare Shilland
Tirzah © Clare Shilland
I think I’ll be fine if you met someone
It’s not even like
we were doing nothing, no

I just need to find something
That will take me back
to how I was before

Do you know
This silent treatment
doesn’t stop me bugging

Best thing we can do
is really talk about it

I was never tryin’ be cold
But I’m sure you knew
I couldn’t be without you

Be alone (do you know)

Tirzah’s lyrics, as “Do You Know” makes plain, are radically ambiguous, transmitting intimacy through the rawest elements of human emotion. She does not rely on clichés or gimmicks, lyrically or musically, but rather acts as a trailblazer for all varieties of experimental pop musicians. The world she creates is vivid without trying to be.

Stream: “Do You Know” – Tirzah

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Devotion - Tirzah

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? © Clare Shilland

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