Certain Songs #1222: The Mysteries of Life – “Once in a While”

Album: Keep a Secret
Year: 1996

If you are wondering how I got to The Mysteries of Life without ever posting anything from the two bands that drummer and co-founder Freda Love played in previously, I’ll admit cheerfully that both of those bands — The Blake Babies & Antenna, for those of you keeping track at home — have never crossed my radar.

I know I tried Juliana Hatfield as a solo artist when she was cool, but she never took (though I love love love her new Olivia Newton-John covers album), meaning maybe it’s time to try some of this stuff.

Anyways, I think it was Ron Woods who mentioned on the Superman-Tim email list — remember email lists? — that I should check out the Mysteries of Life, and pretty soon their debut album Keep a Secret was in heavy rotation in our apartment in Oakland.

Folky, low-key and utterly lovely, Keep A Secret balanced the rhythmic guitar strums of singer/songwriter Jake Smith with the sparse drums & harmonies of Freda Love — who was the link all the way back the Blake Babies — all of which was colored by cellist Geraldine Haas. Nothing earth-shaking but highly melodic and completely listenable, and songs like “Alibi,” “Kira’s Coming Over,” “Gone Beyond” showed extra shadings with each listen.

The best of all was the almost uptempo “Once in Awhile,” which featured a jaunty rhythm and an upbeat chorus.

Life in itself is alive (oooooh)
Life in itself is alive (oooooh)
Life in itself is alive
It’s a pearl in a pearl
And a sign in a sign

And while it never even broke a sweat — Keep a Secret was perfect Sunday morning music, back when our Sunday mornings consisted of reading the combo SF Chronicle / Examiner — it also stuck deep in your head, so you’d be walking around singing “life in itself in alive” hours later, or, if you were in a worse mood, “life in itself is a lie.”

It was indie as hell, and yet somehow they were signed to RCA, meaning that they were going to get ignored by the cool kids as well as underpromoted by their record company. Had Keep a Secret been released by oh, I dunno Matador or Merge, my guess is that it would be a lot more remembered today.

“Once in a While”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Comments are closed.