It’s Random 5 time! And my dogs didn’t let me sleep last night, so I’m on my second cup of coffee (this one red-eyed with a shot of espresso) and this update will be accordingly off kilter. I’m going to try a new format for the 5 this time; let’s see if it sticks.
- Say Goodbye – Beck (Morning Phase)
- Comin’ Round the Mountain – Bob Dylan (A Tree with Roots)
- Lullaby for an Anxious Child – Sting (If On a Winter’s Night…)
- The Parting Glass – The Pogues (Rum, Sodomy & the Lash)
- L’enfer – Coralie Clément (Bye Bye Beauté)
Say Goodbye: I don’t resonate with this album as strongly as I did with its predecessor Sea Change. That one felt achingly melancholic and honest. This one feels like “It’s time to make Sea Change II.” But you can’t fault Beck’s craft. The banjo seems an unorthodox choice when it drops into the break but it fits. His harmonies have been getting better over the years, and the stacked chords on the chorus introduce some needed tension into the song. It still feels more like an exercise, though.
Comin’ Round the Mountain: A few years ago, Doom and Gloom from the Tomb posted a link to a download of the granddaddy of all Dylan bootlegs, the “full tapes” from the Basement Tapes sessions. This tossed off fragment of the traditional song isn’t essential but it’s fascinating: with instrumentation that sounds like hammer dulcimer along with bass, acoustic guitar and drums, the vocal fades in and out like a half remembered thought and the second verse fades into inaudible mumbles. We know she’s coming but we don’t know when and we don’t know why. Typical of the Basement Tapes, Dylan lifts the corner of an old traditional children’s song and finds mystery.
Lullaby for an Anxious Child: Originally a 1990s b-side, Sting fleshed out the arrangement for this on his surprisingly good winter/holiday album a few years ago, with strings, harp and harmonium (accordion?) supplementing the acoustic guitar. I’ve been vocally dismissive of later Sting work, but I liked this album, and though I could wish for fewer chimes and a less affected vocal on this track (does every entrance need a little swoop?) it’s still lovely and done with a light touch.
The Parting Glass: I like the Pogues, and Shane McGowan, best when they’re rooted in their craft and their tradition. This straight take is fantastic and wouldn’t have been out of place on a Clancy Brothers album… well, maybe on an album of drunken outtakes.
L’enfer: I was introduced to Coralie Clément’s music via the Nada Surf cover of the title song of this album. The title song, with contributions from that band’s Daniel Lorca, is still the essential track on this album for me, but “L’enfer” is a perfect slice of fuzzed-guitar summertime French pop, with Clément’s breathy vocals sounding like Jane Birkin hanging out with an indie pop band. Fun for Friday.