“Proof of Life”

by Marnie Stern

Central Question: How do we get in touch with our core desires when all else fails?
Duration of song: 3:42; Number of discrete lyrical lines therein: twelve; Number of those lines that are repeated two or more times: ten; Stern’s label: Kill Rock Stars; Stern’s age when signed to Kill Rock Stars: thirty; Stern’s current age: thirty-seven; Number of Google search results for “Marnie Stern shredding”: approximately 30,500; Stern’s home: a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan; Other occupants of Stern’s home: one Yorkie-Maltese mix; Name of Yorkie-Maltese mix: Fig

“All my life is based on fantasy,” Marnie Stern announces at the start of “Proof of Life,” and it sounds like she might have a point. Here is a woman whose songs usually erupt into firestorms of guitar, whose vocals are always pitch-shifted to sound like a chorus of angry fairies; a woman who, indeed, tends to rely on the partial fantasies of (among others) virtuosic musicianship and electronic signal processing. In this song, however, Stern sings in her natural voice, accompanied primarily by a piano; in the flow of her last album, The Chronicles of Marnia, the quiet arrives so jarringly that you know the circumstances are heavy even before she says a word. The din pared down, her voice unvarnished and raw, Stern begins sorting through some serious doubts about her creative work and the life it props up.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Ian S. Port

Ian S. Port is the music editor of San Francisco Weekly. His work has also appeared in Rolling Stone and the Village Voice.

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