Certain musicians are blessed with the ability to hear, see, feel, or taste music, a variant of the neurological condition known as synesthesia.

While you don't need to have synesthesia in order to be a great musician, there seems to be a significant correlation between musicians capable of creating exceptionally impactful tunes and those who perceive sound in color. Here are some of the most noteworthy musicians with synesthesia:

Frank Ocean

Anyone who's heard Frank Ocean's Blonde knows that the album exists in more than one dimension, and this isn't an accident. Ocean sees colors associated with his music, and his album Channel Orange was inspired by the color he saw when he first fell in love (which was, obviously, orange).

Pink Matter www.youtube.com


Lorde

Extra Minutes | How Lorde sees sound as colour www.youtube.com

Lorde has described synesthesia as a driving force behind all her music, and like Ocean, she has sound-to-color synesthesia, which means all music has a color in her mind. "If a song's colors are too oppressive or ugly, sometimes I won't want to work on it," she once told MTV. "When we first started 'Tennis Court' we just had that pad playing the chords, and it was the worst textured tan colour, like really dated, and it made me feel sick, and then we figured out that prechorus and I started the lyric, and the song changed to all these incredible greens overnight!"

Lorde - Green Light www.youtube.com

Stevie Wonder

Even though he's blind, the musical legend and innovator Stevie Wonder can see the colors of his music in his head, which might explain why his music sounds so vast and rich.

Stevie Wonder - Moon Blue www.youtube.com

Billy Joel

The "Piano Man" singer can see the colors of the music that he plays, and it sounds like his perception is influenced by tempo and mood. "When I think of different types of melodies which are slower or softer, I think in terms of blues or greens," he said. "When I [see] a particularly vivid color, it is usually a strong melodic, strong rhythmic pattern which emerges at the same time," he said. "When I think of these songs, I think of vivid reds, oranges, and golds."

Billy Joel - Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Official Audio) www.youtube.com


Kanye West

The brilliant musician and recently born-again Christian once said that all his music has a visual component. "Everything I sonically make is a painting," he said. "I see it. I see the importance and the value of everyone being able to experience a more beautiful life."

Kanye West - All Of The Lights ft. Rihanna, Kid Cudi www.youtube.com

For West, visuals need to be compatible with the colors he hears in his head. "I see music in color and shapes and all and it's very important for me when I'm performing or doing a video that the visuals match up with the music – the colors, y'know," he said. "A lot of times it's a lonely piano [that] can look like a black and white visual to fit that emotion, even though pianos are blue to me and bass and snares are white; bass lines are like dark brown, dark purple."

No Church In The Wild www.youtube.com


Pharrell Williams

The "Happy" singer (a yellow song if there ever was one) has been open about his synesthesia, and he has a very in-depth way of perceiving musical color. "There are seven basic colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet," he said. And those also correspond with musical notes…White, believe it or not, which gives you an octave is the blending of all the colors…" So that means chords would be blends of different shades, and harmonies would likely involve the blending of compatible colors. For Pharrell, synesthesia is instrumental to his creative process and to his worldview at large. "It's my only reference for understanding," he said. "I don't think I would have what some people would call talent and what I would call a gift. The ability to see and feel [this way] was a gift given to me that I did not have to have. And if it was taken from me suddenly I'm not sure that I could make music. I wouldn't be able to keep up with it. I wouldn't have a measure to understand."

Pharrell Williams - Happy (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Duke Ellington

For the jazz great, individual notes also have different colors—but their exact shades depend on who's playing them, not the note itself. "I hear a note by one of the fellows in the band and it's one color. I hear the same note played by someone else and it's a different color," he said. In addition to associating music with colors, he also sees sound as texture. "When I hear sustained musical tones, I see just about the same colors that you do, but I see them in textures," he added. "If Harry Carney is playing, D is dark blue burlap. If Johnny Hodges is playing, G becomes light blue satin."

Duke Ellington - Blue Feeling www.youtube.com

Tori Amos

From the sound of things, Tori Amos experiences music in a very dreamlike and psychedelic way. The singer-songwriter and piano prodigy has said that songwriting feels like chasing after light. "The song appears as light filament once I've cracked it. As long as I've been doing this, which is more than 35 years, I've never seen a duplicated song structure. I've never seen the same light creature in my life. Obviously, similar chord progressions follow similar light patterns…try to imagine the best kaleidoscope ever."

16 Shades of Blue www.youtube.com


Dev Hynes

After hearing Blood Orange's saturated, vivid sonic craftsmanship, it's not hard to believe that its creator is synesthetic. However, for Dev Hynes, synesthesia isn't a walk in the park. "Imagine color streamers just bouncing around," he explained. "It's hard for me to focus at times because there's a lot of things floating around, pulling me away. Situations can become very overbearing and overwhelming."

Blood Orange - Dark & Handsome | A COLORS SHOW www.youtube.com


Charli XCX

Synesthesia helps Charli XCX curate and shape her songs, and apparently, the pop queen favors sweeter, brighter colors. "I see music in colors. I love music that's black, pink, purple or red - but I hate music that's green, yellow or brown," she said.

Charli XCX - Silver Cross [Official Audio] www.youtube.com


Mary J. Blige

"I have that condition, synesthesia. I see music in colors. That's how my synesthesia plays out," singer, rapper, actress, and legend Mary J. Blige explained succinctly.

Mary J. Blige - Be Without You (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com


Marina Diamandis

The former star of Marina and the Diamonds (who now goes by only Marina) apparently can see sound as color, but she also associates certain colors with days of the week. Her synesthesia also sometimes causes her to associate music with scents. "Mine usually only expresses itself in color association but I do smell strange scents out of the blue for no reason," she's said.

MARINA - Orange Trees [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com


Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell

In Billie Eilish's technicolor universe, every sense bleeds into everything else, and things like numbers and days of the week have their own color palettes. "I think visually first with everything I do, and also I have synesthesia, so everything that I make I'm already thinking of what color it is, and what texture it is, and what day of the week it is, and what number it is, and what shape," she said in a YouTube Music video. "We both have it [she and brother, Finneas O'Connell], so we think about everything this way."

Billie Eilish - Ocean Eyes (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara thought that synesthesia was just something everybody had, until she realized not everyone could see sounds. "I didn't know that synesthesia was something that was, I guess, only a thing for some people," she said. "I thought that everybody kind of experienced it. So for me, it was just a natural pairing to my music. Everything audible was visual to me, and it still is. And so I think when I write, it's kind of cool to listen back and say, 'Well, this song feels kind of purple' — if a certain drum sound sounds purple and the song feels purple, then I know that they kind of match. It just really helps me figure out the whole package of a song." And like Kanye West, her synesthesia influences her visual content. "Even with videos — it helps me figure out what I want to do music video-wise," she added. "So it's definitely a strong aspect of my writing."

Alessia Cara - Ready (Lyric Video) www.youtube.com


Franz Liszt

Synesthesia isn't reserved for 20th and 21st century legends. Many classical musicians possessed synesthetic abilities, such as the composer Franz Liszt, who apparently used to ask orchestra members to make their tone qualities "bluer" and would say things like, "That is a deep violet, please, depend on it! Not so rose!" While orchestra members thought he was joking, they soon realized that the musician could actually see colors in the music he created.

Franz Liszt - Liebestraum - Love Dream www.youtube.com

MUSIC

All the Lyrics on Big Thief's U.F.O.F.

Adrienne Lenker's lyrics are the sort that need to be read, reread, painted on your bedroom wall, tattooed on your forehead, and read again before you even begin to take in their full majesty.

Big Thief's sophomore release, Capacity, was a virtuosic album that spun family traumas into quiet, mystical hymns.

Their newest release, U.F.O.F., builds on that formula, winding complex melodies into cohesive, restrained folk songs to create music that sounds much more simple than it is.

While Capacity sulked in the shadows of the past, U.F.O.F. leaves that decayed house of memory walks out into the summer air, and turns its eyes to the sky. Its lyrics explore death, terminal illness, and the desire to escape or transcend the limits of human life and consciousness. Ultimately, the album is about the vast, unknowable things that flicker on the edges of ordinary reality and promise the existence of something beyond.

In some ways, U.F.O.F. seems like it's meant to be listened to in complete silence, perhaps played out on staticky speakers in an abandoned lakeside mansion. Pensive, abstract, and full of longing, it almost seems like a living thing, ready to be peeled apart, mulled over, and shaped to fit each listener's experiences. Though some of its earlier songs are jagged and abstract, the music in grows more and more powerful and pleasing to the ear as the album progresses.

One highlight is "Terminal Paradise," a song that starts softly but builds up to a rustle of bell-like tones and jingling guitar patterns. The track feels somewhat like the stirrings of an early autumn wind, the scent of impending rain, or the breathless feeling of a plane taking off. "Jenni" is a powerful follow-up, a tangle of screaming guitar tones and slow drum beats.

The album's final track, "Magic Dealer," winds everything together. "I am the photograph in you, still as the moment we're lying in right now," whispers the band's lead singer, Adrienne Lenker. That lyric could encapsulate all of U.F.O.F., which, for all its winding rhythms and secret passageways, never feels rushed or urgent. Instead, it feels sort of like lying in someone's arms and ignoring the entire world, feeling the persistent chill of an impending ending, trying to hold onto a moment as it rushes away.

Despite the beauty of its music, the album is truly remarkable because of the quality of its lyrics. Lenker shines more lyrically than vocally on U.F.O.F. She has an uncanny talent for putting breathtaking words in strategic places—a silkworm here, you have wings of gold/you will never grow old there, a crystal between quotidian descriptions of suburban nights. In her ability to make pure poetry sound effortless and genuine, Lenker may be one of the closest lyricists to Leonard Cohen that we have today.

Despite their beauty, the lyrics are sometimes inaudible, at times so wispy that even quiet guitar plucking buries them. Perhaps that's on purpose—maybe this album is more about the music, especially since Lenker's solo album, abysskiss, allowed her words to take center stage. Maybe it was meant to be this way, designed so only certain phrases make it out of the fray, so fragments of poetry appear like lamplights on a misty road.

Though sometimes the lyrics are unintelligible, they are so heart-stoppingly gorgeous that it would be a shame for them to go unnoticed. So, without further ado, here are the lyrics to every song on U.F.O.F. (with my personal favorites in bold).

Contact

[Verse 1]

Jodi
Please turn the pages for me
You seem so free
You know I'm barely, barely

[Verse 2]
Wrap me in silk
I want to drink your milk
You hold the key
You know I'm barely, barely

[Verse 3]
Parker Lake Beach
All of the sunnys swimming
I wanna see
To feel my body sinking, sinking

[Verse 4]
She gives me gills
Helps me forgive the pills
She makes me sing
She is both dreamer and dream
And dream, and dream, and dream


UFOF

Big Thief - UFOF (Official Audio) www.youtube.com


[Verse 1]
To my UFO friend
Goodbye, goodbye
Like a seed in the wind
She's taking up root in the sky

See her flickering
Her system won't even try
To defend and ripen
In the radio action

[Chorus]
She'll never return again
Polarize, polarize
The seasons will bend
There will soon be proof
That there is no alien
Just a system of truth and lies
The reason, the language
And the law of attraction

[Verse 2]
Just like a bad dream
You'll disappear
Another map turns blue
Mirror on mirror
And I imagine you
Taking me outta here
To deepen our love
It isn't even a fraction

[Chorus]
Switch to another lens
The last sunlight
I don't need any other friends
The best kiss I ever had is the flickering
Of the water so clear and bright
To leap in, my skin
And I could feel the reaction

[Chorus}
Just like a bad dream
You'll disappear
Another map turns blue
Mirror on mirror
And I imagine you
Taking me outta here
To deepen our love
It isn't even a fraction


Cattails

Big Thief - Cattails (Official Audio) www.youtube.com

[Verse 1]

And the clusters fell like an empty bell
Meteor shower at the motel
Where the empty space is a saving grace
Making good time and doing well
Still the question sings like Saturn's rings
Maybe she knows and she won't tell

Caroline, Caroline
I never could leave you to struggle
Hold the line, hold the line
I'll be there on the double
In time, in time
Everyone does see trouble

[Chorus]
And you don't need to know why when you cry
You don't need to know why
You don't need to know why when you cry

[Verse 2]
Violet's eyes, Violet plays
Going back home to the Great Lakes
Where the cattail sways
With the lonesome loon
Riding that train in late June

[Chorus]
With the windows wide by my side
With the windows wide
With the windows wide by my side

[Verse 3]
And the clusters fell like an empty bell
Meteor shower at the motel
Where the empty space is a saving grace
Making good time and doing well
Still the question sings like Saturn's rings
Maybe she knows and she won't tell

[Chorus]
But you don't need to know why when you cry
You don't need to know why
You don't need to know why when you cry

[Verse 4]
And I find you there in your country flair
Middle of the river in a lawn chair
With your wrinkled hands and your silver hair
Leaving here soon and you know where
To where the cattail sways with the lonesome loon
You'll be riding that train in late June

[Chorus]
With the windows wide by your side
With the windows wide
With the windows wide by your side
You don't need to know why
You don't need to know why when you cry


Open Desert


[Verse 1]
Vacant angel, crimson light
Darkened eyelash, darkened eye
The white light of the living room
Leaking through the crack in the door
There was never need for more
Things we're meant to understand

Crawling closer to your hand

[Chorus]
To the poison image
Brave surrender
Kiss the water

[Verse 2]
After all my teeth are gone
After all the blood is drawn
The white light of the waiting room
Leaking through the crack in the door

[Chorus]
Through the poison image
Brave surrender
Kiss the water

[Outro]
Through the mirror, mountain view
She has one green, one eye blue
I can see her smiling through
The white light of the living room
Leaking through the crack in the door
The white light of the living room
Leaking through the crack in the door
There was never need for more
Things we're meant to understand


Orange


[Verse 1]

Orange is the color of my love
Fragile orange wind in the garden
Fragile means that I can hear her flesh
Crying little rivers in her forearm
Fragile is that I mourn her death
As our limbs are twisting in her bedroom

[Chorus]
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes

[Verse 2]
She tells me to close and count to ten
As she wanders freely through the forest
Can I close and open once again?
The question that I seek for reassurance
[Chorus]
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes

[Verse 3]
Hound dogs crowing at the stars above
Pigeons fall like snowflakes at the border
She kneels down and holds the frozen dove
Moon drips like water from her shoulder

[Chorus]
Flies, flies, flies
Flies from her eyes
Flies, flies, flies
Flies from her eyes

[Outro]
Orange is the color of my love
Fragile orange wind in the garden
Fragile means that I can hear her flesh
Crying little rivers in her forearm
Fragile is that I mourn her death
As our limbs are twisting in her bedroom


Century

Big Thief - Century (Official Audio) www.youtube.com

[Verse 1]
Dogs eyes in the headlights of the driveway
Cool autumn rain
Bugs died on your windshield on the freeway
Wonder if you'll be the same
Centuries flower

[Chorus]
And we have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power

[Verse 2]
Moth flies in the window of the kitchen
You hang up your coat
Cold lips and gold eyes listen
There's something that I want you to know
Turn on the shower

[Chorus]
'Cause we have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power

[Verse 3]
No resolution, no circling dove
Still caught in the jaw of confusion
Don't know what I'd do for love
But stay another hour

[Chorus]
'Cause we have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power


Strange


[Verse 1]

Doesn't it seem strange
Searching for a hidden page
The fairy's cage
Coming of true age
Leave the costume on the stage
The silkworm's rage
Iridescent thread, beautiful and dead
Billions of worms were boiled to make the bed

[Chorus]
Strange, see the luna moth cry
Lime green tears through the fruit bat's eyes

[Verse 2]
Scatter and destroy
Every power you enjoy
To lay with the void
Twirling of the dime, splitting of the mind
Drawing constellations 'til the stars align

[Chorus]
Strange, see the luna moth cry (Cry)
Lime green tears through the fruit bat's eyes (Eyes)

[Outro]
You have wings of gold
You will never grow old
And turquoise lungs
You have never been young
You have wings of gold
You will never grow old
And turquoise lungs
You have never been young
The silkworm's rage
Iridescent thread, beautiful and dead
Billions of worms were boiled to make the bed
Strange, see the luna moth cry
Lime green tears through the fruit bat's eyes


terminal paradise


[Verse 1]
Driving through the night
Rings of crystal, crystal light
Every gulp of the warm suburb air
Betsy's auburn, auburn hair
[Refrain]

Ooh, ooh

[Verse 2]
Drive into New York with me
How she keeps me calm
Street lights, boys and poison palms

[Refrain]
Ooh, ooh

[Bridge]
Drive into New York with me
Big lights in the city
[Refrain]
Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh

See my death become a trail
And the trail leads to a flower
I will blossom in your sail
Every dreamed and waking hour


Jenni


[Verse 1]
Too hot to breathe
Too hot to breathe

Too hot to breathe

[Chorus]
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room

[Verse 2]
Her skin so bare
The fragrant air
Her vacant eye

[Chorus]
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room

[Verse 3]
The signal swarms
The portal forms
She calls me through

[Chorus]
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room


Magic Dealer

[Verse 1]

Starve, magic mirror
I thought the crumbs of your life wouldn't dry
It hurts to see clearer

Falling like needles, the passage of time

[Chorus]
Would it hurt, would it hurt to be nearer?
Heaven is stitching across me
My chest is the crossing
The blood is parting all the time, but I don't mind

[Verse 2]
Carve magic dealer
Bring me the company I couldn't buy
As I go cleaner
Falling like needles, the passage of time

[Chorus]
Would it help, would it help to go deeper?
I am the photograph in you
The photograph in you
Still as the moment we're lying in right now
Starve, magic mirror
I thought the crumbs of your life wouldn't dry
It hurts to see clearer
Falling like needles, the passage of time


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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