Even the most relaxed moments of “Ruler” feel extremely urgent, in part because there’s always some bit of pulsating treble that implies the crackle of electricity, or some bit of anxiety in the back of your mind that keeps you from being still. The piece alternates between rapid-fire thoughts on the verses and a bolder, calmer chorus, and builds speed and intensity until it hits a bridge that seems to distill every feeling of panic and negativity into a concentrated dose, as if to flush out the toxins before moving on to a triumphant conclusion.
The beauty of this song — and really, most of Marnie Stern’s work — is how her arrangements feel out all sides of urgency and emotional overload, and she teeters on the brink of giddy excitement and mind-melting terror when faced with an uncertain future. Even still, her optimism consistently trumps her angst, and so more than anything, the music seems incredibly heroic as she storms into the unknown. (Originally posted 9/9/2008)