The Autumn Film's "Joy" is trying to break your heart

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Last week, I downloaded the latest free EP from the Autumn Film, a local act that makes a habit of giving its tracks away online. I must admit that, before I got my hands on this collection, a three-track-and-a-video collection called Heart-Shaped Box, I was far from being a fan of the band formerly known as Tifah. It wasn't that I had anything against the extremely talented trio of Tifah Al-Attas, Dann Stockton and Reid Phillips. It was simply that the group's adult contemporary pop didn't speak to me. All that changed, however, with one track: "Joy."

At its core, "Joy" is a cover tune. With nothing but Al-Attas's haunting voice and an unadorned upright piano, the recording transforms an old-as-dirt children's hymn that many folks will remember from Sunday school and church camp into a plaintive song of pain and disappointment. Al-Attas begins the track at nearly a whisper, touching the keys of her piano just hard enough to tease its strings. The listener has to lean in just to catch the words: "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart." At around the two-minute mark of the four-minute recording, however, the singer uses a bridge composed of original words and music to morph the song from spiritual to profoundly personal. At the same time, her singing and playing build to  a powerful crescendo that mirrors the frustration and angst of the lyrics. This crescendo then decays beneath the weight of its own emotions, and Al-Attas ends the song in almost the same whisper with which she began. It's heartbreaking, but also oddly exhilarating in its naked, honest beauty. 

Download the track for yourself for free along with the rest of Heart-Shaped Box and two other Autumn Film EPs, and let us know what you think.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.