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Song For Our Times: Elizabeth And The Catapult

Just about everyone has been affected by the financial crisis, directly or indirectly. Songwriter Elizabeth Ziman used it as creative inspiration. She wrote a song about the crisis on Wall Street for her band, Elizabeth & The Catapult. "Taller Children" is the new album's title track.

Ziman and band mate Danny Molad recently spoke to NPR's Elizabeth Blair about how they wrote and recorded the song. Hear "Taller Children" take shape below.

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Taller Children

"Taller Children" isn't just an indictment of Wall Street. Ziman says lots of people, herself included, are capable of the kind of childish self-interest that led to the financial crisis. "When I was singing this, I couldn't really tell if I was berating The Man, or if I was empathizing with him," she says. "These are feelings and tendencies we all have. We all want too much and act out of selfishness."

Original Bassline And Vox

Elizabeth Ziman first got the idea for "Taller Children" around the time Lehman Brothers was going down. She says she felt that Wall Street executives and government officials had been overly confident and overly indulgent. Then one day, on a lunch break from rehearsing, the bass player in her band was fiddling around with a riff she liked. She started improvising with him.


The song's titular "taller children" are adults acting childishly. In the song, Ziman writes about one she calls Mr. Wall Street Wonder. As it starts, his life is perfect. Then comes what she calls the breakdown section. It's written in 13, an odd time signature, to make it feel more unsettling. After this section, the vocals are layered over and over to create the sense that it is, in the words of band mate Danny Molad, a chorus of lost people.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.