Shifting the sightlines
A Phoenix and Doves - Diane Cluck
This happens to me all the time. Someone speaks warmly about a song. They call it a best, a favorite, an influence, even something that's changed their life. And I think, I must hear that! Get me that song right now! And then I realize: I already have it, I've already heard it. I walk by it all the time without looking up. So then I listen to the song again in this different context, as something adored by someone else, and often it is wonderful: a glimmering gem right under my nose (or on my hard drive) all along. Such is "A Phoenix and Doves," which Bryce Dessner of The National* calls "one of the sweetest folk songs I've heard in a long time" in a guest list the band compiled for eMusic this week. I've liked Cluck for a while and own a couple of her albums, but songs that stuck out for me were "Sandy Ree," "Real Good Time," and "Easy to Be Around," not this modest composition. But yes, on second listen, it is one of, if not her best -- an elegant song of metaphysical deliberation (to die daily die daily implies to be born daily), of root truths, with Cluck's extraordinary voice lapping like dark waves. Don't pass it (or her) by.
From Countless Times (Amazon, eMusic)
*I'm undecided about the new National album. So far it hasn't grabbed me, but National albums don't tend to. I should probably put more "work" into it, but my attention seems to be elsewhere these days.
Your Million Sweetnesses - Noa Bell
Yr Million Sweetnesses - Diane Cluck
Noa Bell: The name rolls round your tongue sweet and sonorous, milk and honeyed. Noa Bell noa bell noabell. The best, most standoutish name I can think of for a solo girl with an acoustic guitar at a time when girls with guitars (and guys with guitars) are so thick on the ground they're carpet. (Now that you've heard it, will you forget?) And also right for someone who sings as unclouded and white-blinding as a sunny winter's day following a terrific snowstorm. "Your Million Sweetnesses" was written by Diane Cluck (Oh Vanille) and originally performed folk-conversational, with words spaced even and singular like teaspoons on a table. For all its restraint and soft-surging guitar, it's frustrated -- a plea to a reluctant lover who stems a floodtide of desire with religion (Mary a virgin/Mary not a virgin). Bell, who's Israeli, covers it religiously, by which I don't mean faithful, but sacred-solemn. Sung live in Jerusalem, a capella, the song is offered for collective consideration. And it's fascinating to consider the possibilities of this cultural transposition, the additional emotional heft when something private and personal (how religion can inhibit us, making it impossible to fully live or love) possibly turns public and political.
Noa Bell's (Noa Babayof) Myspace also has streams of original songs and a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Tin Angel." I believe she's recording an album.
Can You See the Sunset from the Southside posts its fifth and final Uncle's Primordial Soup mix -- post-punk and new wave tracks from the late 70s to late 80s -- inspired by a mixtape Eric's "cool" uncle made for him way back when.