Rewind Reviews #3 - By Volume

Understand that I am only as he made me: a faithful servant to all of the noise, all of the lights, all of the flashing in my head. Laura Stevenson - Wheel

Rewind Reviews #3

Walking In The City Author: on October 17, 2012
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Dealing with the ideas of the city and walking, and what the two say to each other in my academic life recently, it seems only fitting that this edition of Rewind Reviews focuses on the city. This is not, importantly, merely a collection of songs with cities as their subjects; it is much more of a reader response, or, rather, listener response, or, even closer, the experience of approximation felt in something like Virginia Woolf’s ideas of interconnectedness — that we are all a big part of the environment we experience, that I shape you and you shape me, and so forth. I have been pondering this subject for quite a while, ever since moving to a new city myself, and have been wondering how to put all this together. Yesterday I saw the wonderful little film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which, though certainly not a perfect film (like we would want that anyway), is one that is deeply beautiful, ambitious, poetic, and, ultimately, charming.

So, what is charm? That is the question I want to work with. What is charm and can a city have it? Michel de Certeau, who lends me the title for this edition, though he does not use the word “charm,” is deeply optimistic about the city, because no matter what sort of totalitarian structures are put in place, there will always be the subjective folklore. This subjective folklore is labeled “local authority” and it is the superstitions of the place: the street name Dufferin is but a line on a map in a strict logical sense, but to the people who live on that street there is the concept of “home” as a local authority, with all of the sensory-mnemonic affiliations that go with it. Music, then, plays a big role in these “local authorities” which can be anything, everything, and everything in conjunction with everything else. Music plays a big role in how I often frame my experiences, especially in the mnemonic sense. Naturally it is the intangibility of music as something perceived and not as a solid thing — just like the charm of a city. So here are three cities that have played a role in my recent lifetime accompanied by three “rewind” tracks, as usual, with a bit more of a connecting sinew than the first two editions of my little article. Enjoy.

Okkervil River – A Stone

Oh, Will Sheff, you write the most piercing lyrics. You can take even the most tired of themes (I love her, she doesn’t love me), and make a song into something so fresh and memorable. You extend a metaphor — a dead metaphor (you have a heart of stone) — and extend it for the entire five minute duration. City-wise, you are London, Ontario. You are simple, perhaps slightly slow and depressed (economically, lack of art culture, whatever), but you are also oddly wonderful. Your river, with its surprising array of wildlife, meanders like a lazy drum beat, hiding its gems (reverbing horns, honky-tonk piano). It’s hot in the summer, cold in the winter, but it is easy to forget you want to be somewhere more exciting when you start to feel comfortable in its grasp. Not necessarily the picturesque grasp – you don’t win the princess – but it’s bittersweet, and that, in the end, is the charm of the song, and the charm of the city.

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