Marlaena Moore plays tug of war with love on Pay Attention, Be Amazed!
In her 2008 poem “Sometimes,” Mary Oliver writes:
Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
On her latest, brilliantly titled release Pay Attention, Be Amazed! Marlaena Moore personifies Oliver’s instructions. Moore’s nine songs are dense — full of nuanced observations that could only be made by somebody paying close attention to the world around them and equally considering their inner world. Stunned by her own discoveries, Moore delivers them emphatically and feels everything with her whole body: “I miss you! I miss you! I miss you! I miss you! I love you! I love you! I love you! I love you!” Moore shouts on the opening track “I Miss You”. By the end of the album, on “Tiger Water,” these full-bodied emotions haven’t been diluted in the slightest: “I have sunk to the floor of the ocean,” Moore sings. “I’m more alive than I’ve ever been before.”
In the same poem, Oliver’s speaks to another facet of Moore’s album:
Two or three times in my life I discovered love. Each time it seemed to solve everything. Each time it solved a great many things but not everything. Yet left me as grateful as if it had indeed, and thoroughly, solved everything.
Across Pay Attention, Be Amazed! — whose songs are mostly jagged, pop-rock affairs — Moore plays tug-of-war with love. On “Please Don’t Cut My Garden” and among the doo-wop soundscape of “All Alone (Full of Love),” she’s overflowing with adoration, while on “Love as Is,” the love Moore has for herself has dried up. “I’m broken…you’ll have to love me as is,” she sings on the latter track. Love is the source of joy and pain. It is a teacher. On “Xmas Oranges,” a sweet album highlight, Moore’s relationship turns mouldy like a clementine left behind in somebody’s locker over the Christmas holidays. But it is also the catalyst for self-reflection and change: “Everytime I turn away from you I face myself,” she sings. Moore is grateful. She is amazed.