UK alternative rock band Alt-J made a splash in 2012 with their debut album, An Awesome Wave. Each track on the album is unique in its approach to storytelling, but none stands out more than the closer – 'Taro'.
The song's entire narrative takes place in four seconds as photojournalist Robert Capa bleeds to death after stepping on a mine while covering the First Indo-China War.
But while Capa's horrific death is described in gruesome detail, the chorus shifts course with the mention of the titular Taro.
Gerda Taro was a German war photographer who worked alongside Capa and eventually became his lover. She died while covering the Spanish Civil War, 17 years before Capa lost his life in the same line of work.
Despite the gruesome subject, 'Taro' is a love song. The cryptic lyrics lead Capa to death's door, but also draw him closer to Taro. In Alt-J's portrayal of their story, Capa's tragedy is lightened through the reunion with his lost partner. As one lyric poignantly showcases, "Do not spray into eyes – I have sprayed you into my eyes."
The haunting beauty of the story is accompanied by an enigmatic but absorbing soundscape as an upbeat sitar-esque melody follows the chorus to highlight the duality of life and death, departure and homecoming.
Over a decade since its release, 'Taro' remains essential.
This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.