Just as there are seasons for the songs that I know, there are moments when the weather, or the light, or the time, or the air just won’t allow my senses to choose what’s appropriate. In these moments, I tend to go rummaging about through the depths of my archive for “forgotten” bits, or, as is more often the case, I wander about the Internet in search of fresh ideas. The former can lead to serendipitous finds like The Mountain Goats while the latter can result in exciting things like Au Revoir Simone’s “Stars.” It can also lead to a fair bit of embarrassment, as, these days, I’m often the last guy to discover anything. If music is a continent – let’s say North America – then most of my friends are Leif Erikson, while I, regrettably, am Miles Standish (proud). What can you do?
In any case, I do occasionally find new and exciting things, and they remind me of a very important truth. See, there’s a tendency when working on a site like this (or my new Cure blog) to forget that there’s a period of falling in love that precedes any song’s ability to save your life. The past can seem codified, and the barriers cemented. Which is why, I suppose, that when a new song grips you – or an old song sneaks up on you – that everything is that much more satisfying. Three songs come to mind, and I’ll work you through them. The first is “Stars,” which, as far as I’m concerned, is the loveliest, eighties-retro single I’ve heard in ages. Au Revoir Simone is actually comprised of three girls from Brooklyn – all playing keyboards – and the vocals are reminiscent of every shimmery bit of pop that God ever sent down to mix tape.
Listening to “Stars” this morning, I was struck by how much it made me want to open the window, head outside, and accomplish something. Some songs inevitably have the effect of making the focus of your life seem too narrow – the effect of making you want to burst in a hundred different directions. Fizzy and electric (a tall order, considering the migraine I’ve got today). It makes me think of all those times that I’ve ever rushed through crowds – the live version of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Daphne Descends” (1) or Radiohead’s “Where I End and You Begin” propelling me at ridiculous speeds through throngs of half-seen, barely-acknowledged human obstacles. The kind of music that only the sensation of wind rushing against your face can satisfy.
Songs like this should always be marked. There’s a good chance that they’re going to come up, again. (Probably on this site, but not limited to this – know what I mean?) One of those songs, which came up as I was sitting down to write to you about “Stars” is Sun Kil Moon‘s cover of Modest Mouse’s “Ocean Breathes Salty.” Such a beautiful, gentle track that I can’t help but close my eyes and go still. You know, one of those spine-tingling moments when your life comes down to a single act – in this case, listening. Heart in time with the music, as it washes over you. (2) “Ocean Breathes Salty” says: “You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death?” Which, for some reason, makes me think of my dad. And it makes me think of my fears about growing old. And I can only sit and contemplate its elusive meaning – but, honestly, I want to. I suspect this song has something to teach me, and so it goes under surveillance.
I suppose this entry doesn’t have a lot else to say. But that’s the beauty of the “breath” section, right? Two great songs by two great bands, and a lot of introspection. But perhaps there’s an echo? Perhaps you share these curious moments of stillness – deep within yourself, do songs ever make you just stop? Isn’t it frightening and enlivening? (I think so, too.) And so, a million miles apart, I give you these:
First is “Stars.” The whole song, in album quality, can be found here. The video is interesting, and cute, but crowd noise is a nuisance.
And now, “Ocean Breathes Salty.” (Someone else seems to have been dreaming of this one, too. Download link’s in the middle of the review.)
- Awesome, by the way. Beg, borrow, steal, or go here. (Anything from 1998.) Listen to this track and marvel. [Back]
- This is the second of Mark’s tracks to do this to me, actually. The first with his other band – Red House Painters – and it’s the version of “Have You Forgotten” used on the Vanilla Sky soundtrack. The first time I heard this, I was in Cambridge. I was sitting on my floor organizing papers, and the whole world stopped. On first listen, that song made me cry. “Have you forgotten… how to love yourself?” And I had. And I knew it. This had been my problem for a whole month. And that song – on first listen – saved my life by getting me to own up to my biggest problem. Yeah. [Back]