NPR logo Rainer Maria Ditches Accusation for Empathy

Rainer Maria Ditches Accusation for Empathy


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Rainer Maria has honed its intensity down to a burnished point. Danielle St. Laurent hide caption

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Danielle St. Laurent

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Terrified"
  • Artist: Rainer Maria
  • CD: Catastrophe Keeps Us Together
  • Genre: Indie-Rock

Rainer Maria seemed to have its niche all worked out. The Brooklyn trio got its start in the Midwest emo scene, weathered the breakup of the couple in its midst, and slowly saw the spotlight shift to frontwoman Caithlin De Marrais. But then Rilo Kiley emerged as a media darling, sweeping in to occupy the space that Rainer Maria had cleared out, and Rainer Maria was left in the margins in spite of impressive consistency and a gradually evolving sophistication.

So what's an indie band to do? Keep at it and improve: The recent Catastrophe Keeps Us Together finds Rainer Maria honing its intensity down to a burnished point. But "Terrified" doesn't do that. Instead, it uses two gentle chords to set a tone of resigned vulnerability, with the slightest hint of a third right before the chorus. "You're so terrified / so terrified," De Marrais sings with neither rancor nor disappointment, and the reason becomes clear as she hits that word "so" a third time, spins it from an intensifier into a conjunction, and sings, "So am I," recasting everything to admit to her own weaknesses. Ditching accusation for empathy, De Marrais sees vulnerability — and, instead of taking advantage of it, levels the playing field.

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