Perhaps no other song on Phillip Phillips’ second album Behind the Light is as unique and revealing of his inclinations a song writer as “Thicket,” our Song of the week 3. Buried deep into Behind the Light, “Thicket” is a complex, cinematic creation that feels like a world unto itself; a jewel of a song that became a fan favourite almost immediately after the album release.
Built around an intricate circular guitar riff Phillip had been playing as practice for months, “Thicket” is very much a signature Phillip Phillips song, one that favors rhythmic complexity, haunting melodies and deep and enigmatic lyrics. This is also one of the songs on the album where he has a solo writing credit.
The guitar riff is actually played first by the cello, which opens the song with a rapid, dizzying succession of notes. Drums come in but at half time, creating an immediate tension between the rapid riff and the more menacing, slower tempo of the rest of the strings and the drums.
As with most of the songs on Behind the Light, “Thicket” features a gorgeous string arrangement by Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer, Eggar playing the cello in it as well. And his contribution here is very deep, helping Phillip create the haunting, mysterious feeling that defines the song.
The lyrics are in the form of a story, a narrative painted in vivid images that look back in regret to a lost love, at what could have been. Brilliantly, the lyrics mirror the music and the music mirrors the lyrics, as the unresolved, circular melody comes back “around and round” during each verse.
Very “Phillips” also, is the way the lyrics are composed and sung, sometimes running longer than they should within a beat, turned then by Phillip into syncopated notes that keep us guessing and add one more layer of rhythmic tension and uncertainty. It’s dense and intricate, like a thicket indeed. As for the lyrics, many times I feel like trying to understand them is like trying to find shapes in the clouds, but Phillip has indicated in interviews that this song may be about how we sometimes are so focused on looking at the details, that we are blinded and fail to see the whole picture.
And in the end this is how “Thicket” feels, like a puzzle we’ve been building and we finally fit the last piece and the entire picture becomes clear. The revelation here seems disturbing, but also liberating and joyous and we hear it as all sections of the music, including Phillip’s vocals, go into an exhilarating crescendo, finally finding each other on the same tempo and hitting the same beat. It is as if the bird has finally flown out, and we have followed it, and find our way out too…
Check out some rocking videos of “Thicket” below. And take a look at some of the beautiful “Thicket” artwork submitted by fans for Phillip’s lyrics artwork contest last year.
Buy Behind The Light.