Live Music Thursday: Wild Flag's 'Black Tiles'

November 17, 2011

Every Thursday we podcast a video of a live music performance filmed by WBEZ. Here we think a little bit deeper about the song we've chosen and attempt to explain why we think its great.

The final song on Wild Flag's debut album is a doozy of a tune called "Black Tiles." It's perfectly sequenced on the album, and is filled with dark themes of mistrust and fatalism.

The song begins with Mary Timony singing about playing dominoes with a shifty partner. "Black tiles in a line/Watch them fall serpentine/I see the snake in your eyes/Are you set to tell me lies?"

As the band member with the most mystical back catalog, Timony's references to serpents and lion's dens reveal her uncertainty about her domino partner - is it an angel or a demon? A friend or a foe?

Just as this ambiguity is setting in, the straight-shooting Carrie Brownstein takes over the vocal, bluntly stating that no one knows when the end is near. Also, don't take too much time thinking about what happens after that: "All we can hope for is a light/That shines on/After we're gone."

This seems to reassure Timony, who moves from pondering the intentions of her companion to reveling in universal mystery - "The warrior is not a foe and not a friend."

As if to celebrate this existential shift, Brownstein and Timony unleash simultaneous blistering guitar solos, weaving in and out of the other's melody like snakes around Hermes' staff.

The band hurtles toward the end of the song, and perhaps their lives as Brownstein sings "For all we know we're just here/For the length, length of the song."

Watch the band perform "Black Tiles" above or download the video from the Live Music Thursday podcast.