Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Slump on Over and Stir My Shuffle Down

As if her terrific voice, brilliant songs, and easy-on-the-eyes-ness weren't enough, Neko Case has to go and have a greyhound, too. If you're a Neko fan, be sure to check out her recent in studio performance on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. It's a lovely and lilting eight song set that includes a cover of Dylan's "Buckets of Rain," Neko cracking herself up and flubbing the intro to "Wish I Was the Moon"--twice--and steel guitar player Jon Rauhouse wearing a skort, or so Neko says. Luckily, there's no video.

Case also offers what might be my favorite song of the year, "Maybe Sparrow," which leads me to coin a meme (forge a meme? hatch a meme? watch burst out of my chest like I'm John Hurt and my meme is some alien?)--songs that make you cry. Now, I'm secure enough in my masculinity to admit a man-crush on Johan Santana--hunky Venezeluan, ace pitcher, lefty, star of my fantasy baseball team--so being able to say, "Sure, that song tends to mist me up a little," isn't the hardest thing in the world. That said, here's a five-pack from the top of my head and the bottom of my lachrymal glands:

Neko Case, "Maybe Sparrow"
Sure, the song itself is sad--there's no maybe for the poor little birdie; it's a goner long before the song's end. But it's Case's voice itself that gets me, the set up of those "la-di-da-di-da-di-das" that are anything but "la-di-da" light, such casualness and such force confused, and then the three repeats of the words "maybe sparrow" at the very end, the very last her voice rising and missing, something that might sound like a crack if her voice wasn't so richly round-toned. A little rush runs up my spine and my eyes dampen every damn time that damn note signals the sparrow's damnation.

Talking Heads, "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)"
"I'm just an animal looking for a home
Can we share the same space for a minute or two
Love me till my heart stops
Love me till I'm dead"
OK, the lyrics aren't the same without perhaps the one time David Byrne isn't being un-ironically ironic (or is that ironically un-ironic? Listen to "Don't Worry about the Government." Discuss). This might be the one song where he just sort of means it. Any time a mask slips that's worth a ratcheting up of the emotions, isn't it? Notice I haven't even mentioned those sweetie birdie keyboard parts.

Lucinda Williams, "Like a Rose"
The most straightforward love song of all time. Plus anybody who knows or can guess the in-joke about "rosebud" from Citizen Kane (it had something to do with Hearst's indelicate nickname for a delicate part of Marion Davies) knows this is one sexy forever love song, too. Lucinda doesn't even have to get all obvious like she did years later on "Essence" (which, as blatant as it is, is still darn hot--doesn't make me cry, except when I compare it to something stoopid like Liz Phair's "WHC"--look, Liz, guys don't want to think their semen is a product from Aveda).

Iris DeMent, "Our Town"
True enough, with her sad country yodel Iris DeMent could probably set Monty Python routines to music and make one cry. But "Our Town" is filled with so much nostalgia, so much loss, so much sun-setting, so much dobro. And sweet Jesus, how can any eye stay dry with the lines, "Hold on to your lover cause your heart's bound to die"? Don't think that love is even brief comfort either, for by the end of the tune it's my town, not our town--the singer stands alone. Those "goodnights" at the end of each chorus are one mighty code.

Magnetic Fields, "It's Only Time"
It shares the stop-start instrument bed of Eno’s “Everything Merges with the Night,” making each measure more fully measured. But it’s Stephin Merritt’s vocal (not the words) that tells the story, as the melodic line forces his narrow tenor out past its point of comfort, striving for something more, and yes, this a love song (just try singing along and see how hard it is). All of this from the acidic cynic, told by his mom at 2½ that the fun of love would be done at 3. Then the bridge, the voice rising faintly for those fragile “Marry Me”s as the snowflake piano faintly falls—-all of this originally released in a year (2004) when gay marriage replaced Bin Laden as our nation’s greatest terror. Breaks your fucking heart, breaks your goddam country.

Gee, just thinking about all these songs has left me reaching for the Kleenex at the computer for a reason different than I ever have before. (How's that joke for ruining a mood?)

Seriously, I now tag Christy at Folly's House of Mirth (I know, you probably don't take requests), James at Coyote Mercury, and Tom at If I Ran the Zoo. And if all three of you don't write about songs that make you cry and then make others do the same, I'll throw a hysterical bawling fit.

P.S. No jokes about how "Tiny Dancer" makes you cry because you hear it over the cubicles every day.


Blogger Tom Hilton said...

Will do. Need to give it some serious thought first.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Folly Blaine said...

Holy, crap. One minute I'm innocently reading your entry, not a care in the world -- the next I'm viciously saddled with blog homework!

Blogger, she is a bitch goddess.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This Must Be the Place" would probably be the first and maybe only one on that list. It was our song at our wedding. It just makes me stop when I hear it. Actually it hits me on the head, ahh ohhhh.....

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're sick george

4:45 PM  
Blogger George said...


So I'm sick because I cry? You have to let you own feelings show some more, Mr. Brave Man.

Unless you're refering to the Aveda or Kleenex jokes, and those are just product placement. Ca-ching!

5:07 PM  
Blogger Tom Hilton said...

Mission accomplished. And not in a flight-deck-of-the-USS-Lincoln kind of way, either.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Folly Blaine said...

Okay. Done.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, done. Here it is. Sorry it took so long.

7:01 PM  

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