- “Moneda Sucia” by Flormaleva (opening title music from Liverpool)
- “Magick” by Ryan Adams & The Cardinals (from Cardinology)
- “Replica” by Beck (from Modern Guilt)
- “Jazz” by Esbjorn Svensson Trio (from Leucocyte)
- “Lassoo” by The Duke Spirit (from Neptune)
- “Strange Overtones” by David Byrne and Brian Eno (from Everything That Happens Will Happen Today)
- “Man Made Lake” by Calexico (from Carried to the Dust)
- “Betray” by Son Lux (from At War with Walls and Mazes)
- “Mississippi Goddam” (by Nina Simone from To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story)
- “Only for a Moment” by Black Taj (from Beyonder)
- “We Call Upon the Author” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (from DIG, LAZARUS, DIG!!!)
- “Gold for Bread” by Blitzen Trapper (from Furr)
- “Threads” by Portishead (from Third)
- “Blue Ridge Mountains” by Fleet Foxes (from Fleet Foxes)
- “Inside a Boy” by My Brightest Diamond (from A Thousand Shark’s Teeth)
- “De bonnes raisons” by Louis Garrel and Ludivine Sagnier (from the soundtrack of Love Songs)
- “Dreamin’ of You” by Bob Dylan (from Tell Tale Signs)
- “Eat Yourself” by Goldfrapp (from Seventh Tree)
- “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
If the Side A/Side B thing seems pretentious, there’s at least a little method to my (nostalgic) madness. See, ideally, one who listens to this mix will take a short break after Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam.” Frankly, I don’t know how anyone could hear that song and not need to stand up, walk around, pour a stiff drink, smoke a cigarette, something. Recorded live just a few days after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s as painful an expression of rage and sorrow and disillusionment as you’re ever likely to hear. The lyrics alone are enough to get me, but, goddam, listen to Nina’s voice when she sings (at 6:17):
Why don’t you see it?
Why don’t you feel it?
I don’t know . . .
I don’t know.
Nina’s mourning Medgar Evers, four little girls, and, as she calls him, “the King of Love.” I won’t pretend I can empathize with her, and I don’t mean to strike a ridiculous pose of suffering (is there anything more insufferable from a wealthy white guy?), but I offer this recording as a summation of my myriad feelings about the George W. Bush era and about this strange and terrible place that I love and where I have chosen to make my home. To paraphrase another blogger, “If you hear this song and feel moved to tears, then you are a kindred spirit.” Actually, I’d be content to reduce this entire mix down to just three songs: “Mississippi Goddam,” “We Call Upon the Author,” and, for obvious reasons, “A Change is Gonna Come,” which is not a new song, of course, but which has become new in a new context.
2008 is dead. Long live 2008.
Long Pauses was inspired, years ago now, by a Denise Levertov poem that compares the act of writing to the existential adventure of composing of one’s life. “Making Peace” opens with the image of “A voice” calling out from the darkness, which I’ve always taken as an allusion to God; like Levertov in her later years, I still call myself a Christian, even if a somewhat unorthodox one. By Levertov’s calculus, “the poet” — whether a literal artist or, figuratively, an individual composing her life — is imbued with a creative imagination and the will to exercise it. We are holy potential. We are capable of great things, she suggests — “peace,” “justice,” “mutual aid” — if only we choose to shake our lives free of “the imagination of disaster.” It’s all a beautiful extended metaphor, culminating in this description of something like grace:
A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light–facets
of the forming crystal.
Lovely. And still inspiring after all these years. But after listening to “We Call Upon the Author” twenty or thirty times, I’m tempted to start another blog that shifts Long Pauses 20 or 30 degrees on its axis — a site that is more profane and bitter and funny. I’d call it “Prolix!!!! Prolix!!!!” and it would be a kind of fiery Jeremiad. It would be considerably less lovely. In “We Call Upon the Author” Nick Cave also calls out to the Author/Creator but he finds one with a bit of an “imagination of disaster” problem Himself. There’s no vibrating lights or facets of forming crystals in Cave’s America. It’s a much more recognizable place: “rampant discrimination, mass poverty, third world debt, infectious disease, global inequality, and deepening socio-economic divisions.” Come on, Author, can’t you cut some of this shit? “Prolix! Prolix! Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix!”
In other sounds . . .
I haven’t heard enough new music this year to justify putting together a Top 10, but the other 16 songs here represent a good deal of what I’ve been listening to. According to iTunes, “Inside a Boy” wins the “play count” race for the year, which seems about right. “Strange Overtones” is my favorite pop single (if it’s accurate to call a Byrne/Eno song a pop single) since Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You Been Gone.” “Magick” is a pretty great pop song, too — one of many on Cardinology, the tightest collection Ryan Adams has ever released. And “Dreamin’ of You” proves, to no one’s surprise, that Bob Dylan’s rejects and cutouts are golden.
Beck, Son Lux, Portishead, and Goldfrapp all put out really good records that find crazy beauty in electronic noises. Calexico, along with new-comers Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper, mined different veins of Americana and found some jewels. The Duke Spirit and Black Taj made two of the best guitar-driven rock albums I’ve heard in quite a while. And as a film guy, I also had to include two cuts from movies I loved this year: “Moneda Sucia,” Flormaleva’s surf-y opener from Lisandro Alonso’s Liverpool, and “De bonnes raisons,” Louis Garrel and Ludivine Sagnier’s pop-y duet that opens Christoph Honore’s Love Songs. Ah, Ludivine. Be still my beating heart.
The much-coveted “Long Pauses Song of the Year Award” goes to “Premonition: I. Earth” by The Esbjorn Svennson Trio (E.S.T.), which wasn’t included in the mix because, at more than 17 minutes, it would have eaten up a fourth of the disc. I added “Jazz,” instead, which is a somewhat more traditional piano trio performance. “Premonition: I. Earth” is like something from another planet. E.S.T. was formed 15 years ago, and Svennson and drummer Magnus Ostrom played together even longer. You can hear that history in the precision and invention of their improvisations. I only wish I’d had a chance to see Svennson perform live.
Top 10 Live Shows of 2008
The ordering of this list is determined largely, I’ve realized, by where I was sitting and by the energy in the room. Sonic Youth is the only band that still makes me bounce around in a pit with kids half my age; Wilco, who are probably America’s Great Rock Band right now, put on an amazing performance, but I was too far away from it and spent too much of the night feeling like a spectator rather than a participant.
- Sonic Youth
- Tom Waits
- Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, and Buddy Miller
- My Brightest Diamond and Clare & The Reasons
- The Duke Spirit and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
- Lou Reed
- David Byrne
- Elvis Costello
- Iron & Wine and Blitzen Trapper
- Wilco and John Doe
Send me your mailing address if you want a copy of the mix. I’d love to get something in return, but it’s not necessary.