…DURING A SNOWSTORM PONDERING THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Okay, maybe you’re not pondering the existence of God. Maybe you’re certain that there is no God. Or maybe you’re certain that there is. Maybe, you’re sitting with two friends who have both been scorned by women and they are trying their hardest not to get tears on their burgers but something about falling snow is so mesmerizing and you are administering the best advice you can muster. Wendy’s isn’t going to cut it though, we need to lower your self-awareness with something a little more potent. And the best part is, I know a guy. Who knows a guy. The guy I know’s name is Black Velvet. And the guy he knows is named Canadian Reserve. I know they kind of sound like male strippers but that’s not what I’m getting at. What I’m getting at is that God, in his infinite wisdom, has given us liquor for an occasion such as this, and to not partake of the sweet nectar of uninhibited-ness would be a abominable slight against him and all that is holy. So tilt back that flask and chase with a spoonful of mediocre chili (I can’t eat anything else at Wendy’s because I am allergic to gluten). Viva la blues.
Palimpsest – Smog (A River Ain’t Too Much to Love , 2005)
My relationship with this song is one of love at first listen. It is not a song you can listen to in a room full of people, but one that requires the kind of solitude that the title of this article suggests. The sparse guitar and commanding vocals demand a setting in which the background noise must consists of nothing more than the sound of snow falling on a windshield, wind rattling shopping carts, or, I don’t know, moths sleeping.
The Mystery – Idaho (The Lone Gunman, 2005)
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Idaho one of my favorite bands of all time, but I think it’s a mixture of Jeff Martin’s vocals, the eclectic songwriting, the sometimes subdued and understated style. Also this song reminds me of Scooby Doo but like if someone attempted to make a serious, gritty version of it. Like Scooby Doo noir. That’d be fucking sick, do not deny it.
Tower Song – Townes Van Zandt (Delta Momma Blues, 1971)
This is probably one of the most devastating breakup songs ever written. I’ve heard that he played this for his first wife just before they separated or something? Sad. Again, sparse guitar playing will accompany the snow falling (depending on what version you listen to, actually.) One thing I’ve noticed about Townes is that in all the old recordings of him playing he always seems to play with his eyes closed. Wonder what he’s picturing in that head of his. Maybe just colossal darkness. Just like the darkness that surrounds you in your car.
Pretty Eyes – Silver Jews (The Natural Bridge, 1996)
Way up above you in the atmosphere, snow is spiraling around in an orange city-lit void. This song is playing up there. David Berman remains one of the most impressive lyricists of any era. “All houses dream in blueprints/our house dreams so hard/outside you can see my shoe prints/I’ve been dreaming in your yard.” Anyone familiar with the Jews knows that their songs tend to tell stories, and that they range in tone from funny and light hearted to dark and burdensome and everything in between. This one seems to sit on that spectrum somewhere close the dark end, but not all the way. This song also contains a pretty powerful line that is always important to consider when talking about a higher power, the inevitability of death. “One of these days these days will end.” They sure will. Stephen Hawking agrees with me. Unless we colonize other planets / the moon. (Gingich 2012!)
Re: Stacks – Bon Iver (For Emma, Forever Ago, 2008)
No doubt, Justin Vernon has got some songwriting talent. I intermittently consider him overrated / a genius. This song, however, is a triumph. It is just full of these rich metaphors and images and the guitar and vocals match up with it perfectly. In particular that first part: “this my excavation and today is kumran.” I mean, whatever way you choose to interpret that, that’s powerful stuff. He does seem to have an ability for first / last lines. I remember being impressed by the first line in Holocene: “someway baby it’s part of me apart from me.” The last line in Re: Stacks is pretty potent as well. “Your love will be safe with me.” And the way he delivers it. Chills. Even with a mouth full of chili.
It’s Okay – Land of Talk (Some Are Lakes, 2008)
This is one of those songs that makes everything go in slow motion. It’s a good song for the prescribed scenario but you should take it out driving at night as well. Take it to the lake during a full moon. Light a bunch of candles and sob quietly in a hot tub with it. I’m pretty sure this album was produced by Justin Vernon, so I guess it’s appropriate. You can actually hear him singing background vocals on at least one song. Not this one. But this singer, and her name escapes me, has got one of the most underrated set of pipes of this generation. Forget Florence and the Machine (the same machine that Zach de La Rocha raged against? I digress.) Forget that chick with the long hair and that other one who accidently put topless photos of herself on twitter or whatever. This is the real deal. This and My Brightest Diamond. (If you need further convincing pick up The Decemberists’ Hazards of Love). This song also ponders “what will happen to me when I die?” “Maybe when I die/I’ll get to be a car/driving in the night/lightning up the dark” Whoa, be a car? This is beginning to sound like a terrible episode of Supernatural. But I don’t watch that so how would I know.
Also, I’m serious about that Moon Colony thing. Gingrich may not be a good idea, but a Moon Colony is literally the best idea. Think about it.