Thursday, November 12, 2009

Music for gray winter days.

I've been sick, and the weather here in the southeast has been more than accommodating for the past couple of days: rain, drizzle, condensation and cold winds combined with leaden grey clouds have created an environment more conducive to being morose and miserable than any other, with the possible exception of an IRS auditor's office. So I used the weather as a lead-in to indulge myself in more of my favorite, morose, winter music, because it was just that kind of week.

I took the opportunity to return to the work of Bon Iver, because it was on constant rotation pretty much all last winter for me, and always felt somewhat out of place to listen to on a sunny summer day. I was pleased to note that the music held up as well as I remembered after a year off, and found that the song "Blood Bank" has managed to get a death grip on my ear this time around.

I'm not normally a fan of songs that tell a story, but this one tells a neat compact little tale, with a few standout couplets that so that the narrative feels less like a novel, and more like one of Hemingway's short stories. Papa Ernest used to claim that the best and shortest of his stories only had six words: "For sale: baby shoes, never used." The story fills in the space between those words, so instead of feeding you the description, you are forced to work it out for yourself. This song works the same way. In the space of two and one-half verses, you get the gist of an entire life. The narrator tells a short, stream of consciousness story about visiting a blood bank and talking with someone who is never really identified but may in fact be a friend, a lover or a random stranger, about... well, random things. You're introduced to the story already in progress in the eponymous blood bank, looking at bags of donated blood and musings on relatives, mortality and connections. The song hinges on a kiss that isn't necessarily romantic, but more of a human longing for contact with someone, anyone on a cold winter day. And it all finally ends on a reflection on shared secrets, infatuation, and childhood.

I can't say exactly what I've been allowed to witness here, but I'm sure I've been there, and in the back of my mind, I still know exactly what the cold vinyl seats in the car smelled like...

    You said "Ain't this just like the present,
    To keep showing up like this."
    As the moon waned a crescent,
    We started to kiss.

Video by sklyrovka on YouTube, who managed to hit the nail on the head.