Brent Cash f/ Amanda Kapousouz: "Love is Burning Down Tonight"

from How Will I Know if I'm Awake (Marina; 2008)

By Mark Abraham | 8 April 2008

How Will I Know if I’m Awake pings every Beach Boys/Byrds/Orchestral Pop trope imaginable without ever really sounding like those bands. “Love is Burning Down Tonight” is the album’s centerpiece, a wash of piano riffs and the album’s typically dense string/horn/woodwinds arrangements accompanying a beautiful duet between Cash and Kapousouz that obliquely chronicles the end of a relationship.

There’s several things to note here, but the first is how, despite the vast potential for cheesiness with this kind of potentially derivative stuff—welcome back to the late ’60s, again—Cash pulls it off here (and throughout the album) with a sincerity that is both affecting and gorgeous. It ain’t pastiche, in other words; Cash manipulates ’60s Orchestral Pop with ease to complement his complex compositions in a way that highlights the strength of the form. The strings and things flutter around the basic rock combo, adorning and accenting vocal ideas and compositional moods rather than overwhelming the track with the sounds you expect to hear. In fact, with the possible exception of the outro, this track sounds younger than most of the music it seems to emulate which, almost 40 (!) years on, is quite breathtaking to consider.

Kapousouz is so good on this track it makes you wish she’d done more on the album; both voices are weary as it fits the tone of the song, but both carry with them a sense of inevitability and, weirdly, hope, which only makes the song even more emotionally charged. These are two people with clear agendas and constraints talking to us but not necessarily to each other, and without making it explicit the track ties into that curious ability of people to express themselves eloquently to casual bystanders but not to their partners, as well as our innate ability to convince ourselves it won’t be so bad. And in most cases it isn’t, even though it is, and this song rests so comfortably on that cusp that it’s astounding.

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