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Love and Affection on a Celestial Scale

Adem makes a tiny gesture reverberate through space.
Adem makes a tiny gesture reverberate through space.

Singer-songwriter Adem lacks a flashy singing voice, and his compositions are rarely adorned with more than a few warm acoustic instruments. But his two full-length albums don't want for thematic ambition. The first, 2004's near-perfect Homesongs, revolves around the joys and perils of a connection to home, culminating in "There Will Always Be" (audio), a profoundly heartwarming statement of unconditional loyalty. The album's sequel, Love and Other Planets, expands his lyrical reach, expounding on loose connections between love and outer space.

With apparent effortlessness, Adem (a.k.a. Adem Ilhan) nails the delicate balance of internal and celestial on "Spirals," opening on a tiny scale — a lover draws a few small symbols on his hand — before looking ever farther outward, drawing parallels between intertwined galaxies and people in love. In the process, his sweet ballad succeeds not only in shrinking the universe to human size, but also in magnifying the way a tiny gesture of affection can reverberate with a force that's impossible to quantify.

Late in the song, Adem sings of "galactic, tectonic shifts in my chest," in six words summing up the exact balance he tries, successfully, to achieve on Love and Other Planets. When he returns to addressing the tiny but significant moment that launches "Spirals" — "And yet the smallest vibration / like the touch of your pen / makes my hair stand on end" — his song produces the exact sensation it describes.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)