By about August, I had begun formulating year-end lists in my head. I was mentally shuffling songs and albums up and down and back and forth when it finally hit me earlier this month: Who cares? The overwhelming volume of year-end lists (Largehearted Boy is keeping track: A-M and N-Z) has watered down the process, although I still kept tabs on lists from bloggers and writers I especially admire (Chromewaves, Gorilla vs. Bear, Marathonpacks, Bows + Arrows, for starters).
There is nothing wrong with lists (I made two last year). At best they are tangible reminders of a year that was; at worst they are masturbatory exercises of self-importance. They do open up the author to all sorts of criticism (“What? No, TV on the Radio?!?”), although that’s half the fun, I suppose.
For me, the difference between, say, my 13th and sixth favorite albums is probably negligible and hard to quantify. So instead, I’ve whittled it down to one song and one album that moved me or commanded a majority of my attention.
In the newspaper business (of which I’m a part), you’re taught that the lead to a story is vital – it will determine if someone continues to read a story. It’s a good analogy for records, though, in the case of While You Were Sleeping, track No. 1 on Ash Wednesday, I kept doubling back to listen on repeat.
No doubt, the rest of the album is golden. But While You Were Sleeping is something else: insightful, pretty, sad, plaintive. From the first note, when an acoustic guitar gently dives into what NPR calls “midnight ruminations of an insomniac,” the song slowly builds layer upon layer of instrumentation – acoustic guitar gives way to bass gives way to drum beat gives way to horns.
But Perkins’ writing – the imagery – carries the song. He’s singing to someone long asleep, a winding narrative of what is passing this person by in the stillness of slumber: “While you were sleeping, the time changed / all of your things were rearranged.” It’s a simple yet sort of eerie idea: that the world, time, people don’t stop just because you do.
“While you were sleeping the money died /
machines were harmless /
and the Earth sighed.”
Elvis Perkins |
While You Were Sleeping
I also really liked these:
Band of Horses, The Great Salt Lake.
Josh Ritter, Girl in the War.
The Walkmen, All Hands and the Cook.
The Long Winters, Hindsight.
The Roots (feat. Peedi Peedi and Bunny Sigler), Long Time.