Monday, March 13, 2006

I can't get that sound you make out of my head

Today, I am introducing my new weekly column: The Canon. Each week, I will dedicate the column to one song that I feel is a perfect song (i.e. a song that is canonical). I want to note that I am, in no way, trying to dictate what are the "greatest" or "most important" songs of all time. I am simply picking the songs that are the best to ME. To me, a perfect song is one that you want to hear on repeat again and again - a song that you just don't get sick of and can't imagine life without. A perfect song makes the hair on the back of your neck stand-up, provides temporary euphoria, soothes your soul, and makes you feel invulnerable to the world around you.

The Canon #1 - Brian Eno "On Some Faraway Beach"

First of all, I have to admit that I have been slightly obsessed with Brian Eno for the last month or two - so I was leaning heavily towards something in his catalogue. I am inaugurating "The Canon" with this song because I have listened to it at least once every day since the first time I heard it two months ago. The lyrics don't appear until about halfway through the song and seem concerned with the insignificance of our lives:

Given the chance
I'll die like a baby
On some faraway beach

Unlikely I'll be remembered
As the tide brushes sand in my eyes
I'll drift away

Cast up on a plateau
With only one memory
A silver sail on a boat
Oh lie low lie low

In mood and lyrics, the song is very reminiscent of The Beach Boys' elegaic "Til I Die." Despite the bleakness of the lyrics, the melody is triumphant and unwavering. The ascending piano line slowly grows louder and louder as Robert Fripp's volplaning guitar slowly materializes. Fripp's trademark sound is so heavily treated by Eno that it almost sounds like huge synth waves tumbling over and over. As the song is climaxing, the piano and guitar continue to tug the melody back and forth - creating that transcendent glacial effect that Sigur Ros are so fond of now.

Althought this song appears on Eno's first solo album, Here Comes The Warm Jets, it was definitely an early indication of the ambient music Eno would be creating in a couple years - call it proto-ambient. For any of those uninitiated with Eno, this the perfect song to start with - a perfect balance of his experimental, ambient impulses and pop sensibilities.