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Liv’s “Dream Awake”: A Glimmer of Hope Within a Waking Nightmare

lykke li dream awake Boe Marion

I don’t remember hearing music on Tuesday. Or Wednesday. I know I listened to something mindless and upbeat walking into work yesterday, but I’m not sure what.

I go into a trance when I put on my headphones. It’s my escape, to the point where I realize I’ve wandered aimlessly for blocks in the wrong direction. People make fun of me: “I saw you yesterday, but you walked right past me.” Not this week, though. Nothing brings me to that place. For the first time in a long while, the silence was preferable.

I vividly recall the look on most people’s faces, like a bomb detonated thirty blocks downtown the day before. Passing by strangers and catching certain phrases — “third party,” “electoral college,” “President Trump” — lingering in the air.

“We’re so fucked,” a woman sitting next to us at a café interjected on Wednesday night, staring into her rosé.

It’s sort of like a break-up or a death or the plot of 50 First Dates: you wake up each morning, and you play that tape back and you think “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” You try to ignore the photos of swastikas graffitied on walls, white supremacists hosting victory parades, reports of violence against people of color and the LGBTQ community, the hate speech spilling out in comment sections, now given validation — voted into office, for fuck’s sake. You want and need to log out, but it’s your job to stay connected.

It’s not Donald Trump, or even Mike Pence, terrifying as he is: it’s the platform of hatred. That’s what won. Not everyone who voted for Trump is a bigot, but every person who voted for Trump agreed that bigotry is just tolerable enough. That shared mentality is much, much scarier than any one person: history’s proven as much.

I’ve cried. I’m so, so scared. I’ve fought with loved ones, shaking with anger. The middle school anxiety — the threat of hearing a “fucking faggot” tossed at me from around the corner — returns. Any attempt to work through the creeping, nagging depression I’ve battled this whole year is now shelved.

I’ve started wondering at night if I’m genuinely losing it, or if everyone else feels this way, too.

I know one thing: it’s ignited a fire in me I never knew existed. I’ve never felt more ready to stand my ground and fight. I want to get stronger. It seems that’s going to be necessary soon enough, anyway.

There are moments of hope: we aren’t actually going to let them hurt us. Chelsea Handler’s conversation with Senator Barbara Boxer felt inspiring, heartbreaking as it was. Bernie Sanders’ pledge to defend against harmful legislation is heartening, too. I take a lot of deep breaths and remember to be present in the moment. We can only wait now.

I heard a song today. And, eventually, music became a place of solace again.

“Run away while you’re sleeping / Where your chains won’t bring me down / Where the lie won’t break the needle / Where the day don’t come around.”

LIV is a super-group, made up of Lykke Li, Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow) and Pontus Winnberg (also Miike Snow, and also Avant of Bloodshy & Avant), Björn Yttling and Jeff Bhasker. Their new song today, “Dream Awake,” is the first musical departure that’s eased my nerves in this post-Trump reality — nearly six minutes of slow-moving, immersive, atmospheric melancholy, with the ever-so-slightest sense of optimism.

Lykke’s done uptempo before, but she’s at her best with the lonesome balladry (see also I Never Learn). “Dream Awake” tightens her grasp on delivering devastation in sonic form, with the help of the voices and instruments of several talented friends.

It’s a fitting anthem for the times: nearly defeated, worldweary and totally exhausted; yet soldering onward in spite of everything.

I can’t sit here and say “it’ll be okay,” because I honestly don’t know. But we have to move forward, anyway. We must.

Fight the night, dream awake / Saw the light, I dream awake…

“Dream Awake” was released on November 11. (Apple Music)