Rewind Reviews #5 - Memory - By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret
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Rewind Reviews #5 – Memory

Influenced by Wallace Stevens, Keelan takes a memory-fuelled walk through musical corridors. Author: on May 12, 2013
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I have been reading a lot of Wallace Stevens recently, both academically and casually. If I were forced to answer such a question (gun to my head and whatnot), I think I would say Stevens is my favourite poet. I love the way he concretizes something that seems so abstract, but once you think you have a handle on what he is saying he snatches it away from you. He’s a witty poet, but also a deeply moving one. His philosophy seems to revolve around a perpetually interweaving and interchanging relation between metaphor, meditation, and reading—these make up the sensory-perceptive explorations of his poems. Take “Phosphor Reading by His Own Light,” for example, where the perceived outside world of the reader melds with the literary world of the book; the mood of the night, the greenness of the night, affects the words on the page just as much as their semantic and syntactic order. The perception of the world, in other words, is as metaphorical as the words in a novel or poem. There’s plenty of linguistic theory, philosophy, and literary criticism to expound upon these ideas, but that’s neither here nor there for a little article about not-so-new songs.

I tend to go on Stevens binges, as it affects most of my thinking about various things — he’s that kind of poet. So, naturally, when it came time to think about my weekly installment of Rewind Reviews, Stevens was still front and center. I began thinking about “Phosphor Reading by His Own Light” and the sensory-perceptive connection that we might go through when listening to a particular song. This is not so much a matter of suggesting some songs sound better in the winter, or at night, or whatever (though that is in the same category as what I am thinking about here), but rather a connection between music and memory. This is nothing radical and plenty of work has been done regarding the mnemonic functions of music. This week may seem oddly personal, in a way that might initially feel alienating. But this is also an exercise that I think is worthwhile for anybody because it is, like Stevens’ relation between reading and perception, an act of metaphoric interrelation that inevitably strengthens the conscious plane. Or something. Anyway, here are some songs, ‘n’ stuff.

The Walkmen – Lisbon

Lisbon is an album that feels mostly pastoral (a very loose use of the term) in that it has a space and lightness of sorts. But then there’s that edge. “Angela Surf City” is the best example of this edge: the lightly distorted guitars, the ruckus, the jangle. The album maintains this edge even in its more quiet moments. That is, until you get to the eponymous closer. The memory it always brings to me every time I listen to the song is a plane ride to the Dominican Republic a few years back. Like the album, the lead up to the plane ride, while not outright nerve-racking, nonetheless maintained that edge of potential disaster. As only my second time flying (and first time as a real live adult), this edginess was to be expected. As we lifted off and began to level out, the edginess gave way and I popped on Lisbon.

Everything about “Lisbon”, from Hamilton Leithauser’s nonchalant croon, to the barely-keeping-time drumming, and the lilting, fragile guitar, makes this song absolutely perfect for that moment. It was a stunning moment of relaxation to look out of the airplane window into the cloud carpet of the sky and see the sun bent over the horizon as the song entered its lazy, swaying bridge.

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