by September Max
“Why would you ever think I forgot how to love?” Sam Quinn’s lyrics are bittersweet, camouflaged in the alternately hazy and nearly live performance feeling, complete with a “that sounded pretty good” at the end of the track, of Knoxville’s very own Black Lillies’ fourth single, “Snakes and Telephones,” from the upcoming album Stranger to Me, to be released on September 28th during a show at the Central Filling Station in Happy Holler. The Black Lillies are no stranger to the plaintive guitar wails, melancholy string sections, and simple, but effective percussion utilized in this song. As beautiful as it is maudlin, Quinn’s voice becomes an instrument in and of itself, haunting and sweet, dipping in and out of the swelling and sonorous chorus, demonstrating his versatility as a vocalist.
Quinn, taking lead on this song, for the first time, departs from Cruz Contreras’ style enough to make his own impact, but still falls well within the sound of the Lillies, keening toward into indie folk with strong comparisons to Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and singer-songwriter Rocky Votolato. With lines like, “The seatbelts can hold me so close, but nothing can save me,” the single takes on a swaying tone that is still danceable, for the slow swoon of lovers parting, like Gatsby’s green light on the horizon that blinks in time with the steps of this contra dance. “Snakes and Telephones” is a worthy successor to continue the legacy of the Lillies, both immediate and dreamy, as a song to squeeze the last drops of a fading summer night from the slow march of time.