Ms – Decoding the Labyrinth of Emotional Depth

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Alt-J's Ms at
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. Building Blocks of Nostalgia: The Lego Metaphor
  5. The Oath of Vowels: Guardianship of Legacy
  6. Haunted Lullabies: Sleep as an Escape
  7. The Echo of Youth: Infinitely Condensed
  8. Ember Tides: The Consuming Nature of Darkness


We can’t lose touch but we can let go, blue and white gun made from Lego.
All the vowels vow to hold your name, keep your estate clean of me.
I’ve pillowed you so many times this week,
Close eyes, open, close again, forget and fall asleep.
The dark seeks dark,
The dark seeks dark,

The nights of all my youth pressed into one glass of water.
Scattered truths, bewildered beast boohoos, we have our weight: ten thousand ladybirds.
All the vowels vow to guard your name, keep your estate clean, happy.
Some things lie too deep for tears to well,
Close eyes open, close again, feel as my body spells
Dark seeks dark,
Dark seeks dark,
The shadow burns across like embers tide paper.
Darker, darker, darker, darker.

Full Lyrics

In the pantheon of modern alternative music, few songs exude the cryptic beauty quite like Alt-J’s ‘Ms.’ Each line is a masterful blend of poetic ambiguity and evocative imagery, inviting multiple interpretations and resonating on a deeply personal level. The beauty of the song lies in its complex simplicity, reflecting on themes of memory, loss, and the ineffable passage of time.

While the track may at first seem like an abstract tapestry woven from oblique references and shadowy allusions, a closer listen reveals a heartfelt narrative. Layered within the lyrics is a nuanced emotional journey that speaks to the universal human experience, a haunting ode etched into the subconscious of the listener.

Building Blocks of Nostalgia: The Lego Metaphor

The song opens with an arresting image: ‘blue and white gun made from Lego.’ This childlike symbol serves as a poignant reminder of innocence, a representation of simpler times constructed from the very pieces which are meant to create and inspire. However, the mention of a ‘gun’ introduces a sense of violence or conflict, suggesting a loss of innocence or perhaps a confrontation with adult complexities.

The Lego motif plays with our notions of permanence and fragility, as it can be easily assembled and just as quickly dismantled, much like the feelings and relationships that the song alludes to; we can ‘let go’ just as easily as we can ‘lose touch,’ reflecting the transient, often precarious nature of human connections.

The Oath of Vowels: Guardianship of Legacy

Throughout ‘Ms,’ vowels become personified guardians, pledging to ‘hold your name’ and ‘keep your estate clean.’ In this lyrical maneuver, Alt-J transforms language itself into a protector of one’s legacy and memory. It’s as though our very expressions of speech are committed to preserving the essence of someone we hold dear.

This vow could be interpreted as a metaphor for the artist’s role in safeguarding personal and collective memories. The song itself serves as a vessel for keeping the unnamed subject alive, in a space untainted by the singer’s own influence or presence, hinting at a respectful distance maintained in reminiscing.

Haunted Lullabies: Sleep as an Escape

Pillowing someone refers to the act of comforting or supporting them. The recurring theme of falling asleep suggests a desire to escape, paired with the repeated closing and opening of eyes conveying an inability to face reality or a retreat into the solace of dreams. There’s a cyclical sense of avoidance and confrontation throughout the track.

Sleep acts as a temporary respite from the pain conveyed by the ‘scattered truths’ and ‘bewildered beast boohoos’ of the waking world. Yet, the haunting repetition of ‘dark seeks dark’ emphasizes an inescapable pull towards introspection and the shadows of the mind, even in the depths of sleep.

The Echo of Youth: Infinitely Condensed

The song eloquently compresses the ‘nights of all my youth’ into ‘one glass of water,’ painting a vivid picture of nostalgia and the condensation of time. The imagery is stark, as though every memory has been distilled to its purest form—a single vessel holding every laugh, every tear, and every moment of becoming.

The weight of these experiences, likened to ‘ten thousand ladybirds,’ is heavy despite its whimsical metaphor. This curious balance of lightness and burden illustrates the dense emotional load we carry within us, the full spectrum of youthful experiences that shape our present selves.

Ember Tides: The Consuming Nature of Darkness

As the song approaches its denouement, the lyrics intensify with ‘The shadow burns across like embers tide paper.’ This powerful image evokes destruction, the irreversible blackening of paper by fire’s touch—a visual metaphor for the scarring impact of past events on the human psyche.

The repetition of ‘darker, darker’ emphasizes a descent, or perhaps an embrace of the inky depths of sorrow and reflection. The line beckons listeners to look into their own shadows and acknowledge the dark experiences that, while daunting, are integral to the full human experience. Alt-J here suggests that there is beauty and poignancy to be found even in the shadows of life.

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