Join us as we fall into the trance of the siren’s song with Wolf Alice’s cover of “Song to the Siren.”
When I first heard Wolf Alice’s “Song to the Siren,” I thought I was listening to a happy song. The beginning chords come in, elevating the listener to a place of unbounded possibility. The most pronounced lyrics of the song–“and here I am waiting to hold you”– rendered the song as a steady return to love and togetherness. In actuality, this depiction is due to Wolf Alice’s unique styling that creates this illusion until the slow tragedy of the song unravels.
I first discovered the darker tones of the song while messaging a friend. I sent him a screenshot of the seemingly uplifting song I had been playing in heavy rotation that week. As I waited for the reply, I pulled up the lyrics of the song to scope the exact message that was being sent to my friend across the city. Shockingly, I found the lyrics to tell the story of the siren which, in hindsight, shouldn’t be so surprising considering the song’s title. The band’s sweet-sounding, softly mumbled lyrics and the easygoing guitar backing revealed the horrific saga inherent in the lyrics.
The lyrics I found to be loving–“Sail to me/Let me enfold you”–are actually snippets of the siren’s song. Wolf Alice ingeniously highlights these moments to make the song itself a siren’s tune — luring you in with the veil of affection while the explicit tragedy is hidden in plain sight. The rest of the lyrics illustrate the sadness of the person lured to the siren as they reflect with melancholy on the siren’s existence. That speaker, in the voice of Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell says, “I did all my best to smile/’til your singing eyes and fingers/Drew me loving to your isle.” Her own fate is vividly depicted–“Now my foolish boat is leaning
/Broken lovelorn on your rocks.” The siren’s song performs as expected. Ourselves and our narrator both find our vessels broken as we fall into the trance of the song.
Tim Buckley’s original lets the story be told much more significantly. The guitar remains simplistic but is significantly softened in comparison to the Wolf Alice Version. The original remains acoustic, and the vocals are deeper, letting the song be gifted as a story rather than an illusion. Where Buckley attempts to clarify the siren, Wolf Alice muddles the picture, forcing the listener to learn for themselves the dangers a sweet-sounding song can possess.
Listen to Wolf Alice’s “Song to the Siren” here.