'And Then the Feeling Fades Away/ But You Sort of Wish It Would Have Stayed'
The New York Times' Books blog, Paper Cuts, has a recurring thread called "Living With Music," in which authors write about their perfect playlists.
By Kimberley Jones, 4:28PM, Wed. Jun. 11, 2008
The New York Times' Books blog, Paper Cuts, has a recurring thread called "Living With Music," in which authors write about their perfect playlists. I was thinking about this as I set down to blog about The Black Cab Sessions, the site where musicians like St. Vincent, Spoon, and Daniel Johnston can be seen singing a single song in a taxi cab as it roams the streets of London.
I'd wandered onto the site because, after months of not listening to Bon Iver at all, I suddenly had to watch everything the Internet had to offer of him (Bon Iver is the recording name of singer/songwriter Justin Vernon; Darcie Stevens wrote about him in relation to licensing here).
I hadn't stopped listening to Bon Iver on purpose – I'd just sort of forgot. Moved onto newer loves. You know what it's like – when you get crazy-obsessed with a song (like "Skinny Love"), and you just wanna curl up in the sound and stay there forever. And then a week passes, or a month, and you sort of forget. You caught a bug for a while, and then you got better – or worse, depending on your point of view. I don't think I'm alone in that I feel best, my most ragged and alive, when caught in the clutches of something or someone else.
Author Joshua Ferris (Then We Came to the End) touched on this back in September with his "Living With Music" post about the Heartless Bastards ' "Into the Open" (personally, I lost a couple heady weeks to "Runnin'"):
"Here is how it happened: one day I was not listening to this song by the Heartless Bastards, and the next I didn’t know how I could continue life without listening to it 24/7. Then I had to pace myself, knowing that the effect of a good song has a certain half-life, and not wanting that effect to end. And then one day it started to end because I had listened to the song too many times. And now I can listen to it again dispassionately, as if it never meant everything to me. But I have the memory of the day when I was in love with the song and the memory is why I listen to it now."
There's a reason he uses romantic language to talk about his feelings here. Pop songs are the perfect forum to project onto – compact, but not uncomplicated, and undiluted in a way that is near impossible for the sheer sprawlingness of movies and books). In the four minutes that make up "Skinny Love," there's room for only one raw emotion, and that's despair. Just watch this clip from Later With Jools Holland – Bon Iver's about one manly shrug away from a sob. And, in the moment, I was so right there with him.