Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2000)

Lift Your Skinny Fists

Album: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Year: 2000
Reason Featured: #5 Album for Pitchfork’s Top Twenty Albums of 2000, #16 Album for NME’s Top Fifty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: the whole damned thing
Their Grades: Pitchfork (9.0/10)
My Grade: 96%

Though it’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to actually listen to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the spellcasting hands adorning the front of this album stood out to me for years as proof of magic within. Suffice to say, the music contained herein is not the stuff of illusion but of purebred, actual wizardry.

Each of the four twenty-or-so minute tracks here come complete with miniature movements anchored as much by string instruments as they are by guitars and drums. Lift Your Skinny Fists is more comparable to your favorite symphony than it is to your favorite rock record. Over the course of these songs, I felt sadness, happiness, abject loss and triumphant hope but, above all else, reverence and awe. Like Beethoven’s Ninth or Stravinsky’s The Firebird, this is the kind of music packed not only with its own supply of emotional and spiritual meaning but which points beyond itself to an even greater source of beauty in the universe.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that an instrumental record (the only voices you’ll hear are samples of a grocery store announcer, a crazed Christian preacher, a nostalgic old Coney Island resident, etc.) is as philosophically and emotionally evocative as this. The lack of lyrics never caused me to become disengaged because I was so in the presence of sublimity that the music spoke for itself. This is the kind of record which could bring on your darkest hour and get you through it at the same time, the kind which’d sound perfect being played at the origin or end of the universe alike. It raises questions about the beyond without ever vocalizing them.

Lift your skinny fists like antennas to Heaven, they suggest. If this is the signal coming through on the radio, maybe there is someone out there after all.

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