Image: Saved on the ocean, Rikard Land
The Ocean Always Wins - She's Spanish, I'm American
If you can get past the name, you're in. Unlike jolly band of Swedes, I'm From Barcelona, "She" actually is Spanish and "I" really is American. (Try harder next time guys, please!) I is also Josh Rouse, duo-projecting with girlfriend Paz Suay, a singer of somewhat limited vocal range but considerable saucy charm. Pop songs are often about romantic leaps of faith, facing fears (can I trust him? will she break my heart?), and the sea isn't an uncommon metaphor for the vast, gray inscrutable core of another or a measure for immeasurable feeling. "Ocean" is a little more literal. Over balmy salsa rhythms and airy la la las, a woman shivers on the pier and offers her sheepish thalassophobia (or is it philophobia?) to the sea:
I probably should have waited longer
We probably shouldn't take this trip
But I love him and I want to go
So I won't give in.
As verse climbs on verse and mundane Mediterranean cruise turns into nightmare realized, the sweet refrain is stolen by the Sirens-perched-on-rocks, and instinct, foreboding, fate -- primitive evolutionary remnants -- reassert themselves. But you're too busy soft-stepping, hip-swaying to notice as sea swallows shoulder, then arm, then fingertip on the distant vista. Not waving, as it goes, but drowning.
From She's Spanish, I'm American EP (eMusic, iTunes)
Beyond The Sea (La Mer) - Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt's rendition of "Beyond The Sea" is a New Year's party in its waning hours. The embers of the evening. Crushed paper hat, cracked glass, torn dress, scuffed shoe, careless joke. Still tipsy after the drunk has rubbed off. But smiling to itself in anticipation. Of hard-earned sleep. Of a number scribbled on scrap and a call to be made, cautiously, tomorrow (today). Of the new year, thick and unreadable. As the band starts its slow putting away and packing up, morning cracks drapes and splays its rays across the cold dancefloor.
From Djangology (Amazon, iTunes)
Oh, and a cute story! I gave my niece a child's size acoustic guitar for Christmas. After I did a very poor job of tuning it (without benefit of piano or tuner, mind) and she performed a little strumming and picking, my niece said, "Aunt Amy, did I ever tell you that I've always wanted a guitar? "Always," I asked, "your whole life?" "My whole life," she nodded solemnly. My niece is all of six.
And a book recommendation. If you're like me, you refuse to do any heavy mental lifting around the holidays. (Also, you like detective fiction.) George Pelecanos' The Night Gardener kept me well entertained during the several-hour wait for a flight Christmas evening. I mentally edit almost everything I read. Not this lean, muscular book. Pelecanos has a rare gift for spare storytelling and precise, nuanced dialogue. An absolute pleasure.