If Daylight Breaks We'll Fix It
264 · 17 February 00
On one hand, there are albums. Ten songs, forty minutes, that's about what an album used to be when I was growing up. Give or take a couple of songs and a few minutes: Bridge Over Troubled Water is 11/37, Get the Knack is 12/41, Grace Under Pressure is 8/40. In the CD age, the numbers have been creeping up (from the choirgirl hotel is 12/54, Eight Arms to Hold You is 14/51, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is 17/72), but the character of the album experience hasn't really changed. An album contains enough songs for you to lose count, and lasts long enough for you to shift into its mode and stay there for a while. The music industry invented the form decades ago, and still understands what to do with it pretty well.
On the other hand, there are singles. In the old days, a single had two songs. CD singles pushed the count up to four for a while, and it's slipped back down to three recently, but the structure of a single is less a matter of track count than emphasis. A purebred single has one important song and a small mound of assorted other debris. This is arguably commercial pop's native format, and however tempting it is to think that online distribution will foster an indie revolution, my guess is that once Sony and Universal figure out how to sell kids one Britney Spears song over the net for a dollar, at 11:30pm and negligible incremental cost, instead of two songs (one of which nobody wants) on a flimsy cassingle at Tower on Friday afternoon for two dollars, the musical mainstream will only become more dominated by disposable crap, not less.
In between those two, though, at least out in the margins where the obvious impossibility of making a living at this frees people from commercial pressure, there lingers the EP: three to six songs of approximately equal ambition, lasting fifteen to twenty minutes or so. The only significant recent mainstream example I can think of, offhand, is Sinéad O'Connor's Gospel Oak, but I've accumulated a small tower of them from more obscure sources. They are, in a way, the ideal DIY format, substantial enough to establish the identity of the artist (as a single song usually is not), but small enough that a band with day jobs don't have to spend three years accumulating the material to fill one. EPs are to music what short stories are to writing, and what short films are to movies. Which means, among other things, that basically nobody ever hears about them. Here are a few that deserve better.
Saltine: Find Yourself Alone
Saltine is ex-Posies co-leader Ken Stringfellow's new band, and this three-song disc (on Houston Party, the same Spanish label that put out the recent Posies' live album) may turn out to be a single, after all, once an album appears to change its context, but for the time being it stands alone, and to me the two "other" songs sound as fully realized as the title track, so I'm going to call it an EP. Stringfellow put out a short solo album called This Sounds Like Goodbye, in 1997, but the home-recorded demos on it were far too sketchy for me, too removed from the grand pop for which I know him to produce much emotional resonance. Saltine is a real band, a sturdy rock quartet, and there's nothing sketchy or demo-ish about these songs. "Find Yourself Alone" is as graceful and melancholy as anything the Posies ever did, trading Stringfellow and Auer's boyish harmonies for a little more rock confidence. It's an introverted drinking song, lyrically closer to Mark Eitzel than the Posies' chirpy, romantic odes, but adulthood proceeds from adolescence by days, not years, and it's easy for me to imagine that this is what the Posies grow into, charming youthful overambition mellowing into poignant candor. Wisps of falsetto and judicious piano trills provide an airy pop ambience, which the band grounds with an unhurried rhythm section and wiry guitars, neither the frenetic sparkle of Failure nor the distorted roar of Frosting on the Beater, but something about which both of those could feel responsible and proud. "Reveal Love" is slightly quicker, and the chorus is noisier, but Ken's vocals fade back into the music, guitar lines take over where harmony-drenched bridges might have been before, and the combination drifts closer to the emotional range of Buffalo Tom or the Gin Blossoms. "Any Sign at All" is the sunniest pop song of three, but perhaps also the one that resembles the Posies the least, edging instead towards a Europop jazziness, although I doubt Apricot, Marsh Marigold or Marina would stand for the firm, dry drumming or the squalling guitar solo in the middle. Put together, the three songs fit my post-Posies mood precisely: sad that the band is no more, and willing to dwell in that sadness for a little while before confronting anything that tries too hard to make me forget about them.
Rainer Maria: Atlantic
I have another EP and an album by the Madison trio Rainer Maria, but I got them in the middle of a cursory tour of earnest American indie-rock bands designed more to give me an idea of the range of music I was missing than to grant any individual record a chance to change my life, so although I know I like them, I couldn't tell you exactly why without getting them out and playing them again, or looking up my own review. But that got me to buy this late-1999 EP, and I like it enough to stop feeling guilty about scrutinizing the others so cursorily. Musically, Rainer Maria is still dense and evasive, in the emo vein of Christie Front Drive or Braid, but Caithlin De Marrais' gauzy singing, instead of the emotive wails of the male singers in most of the other bands on Polyvinyl, here changes the nature of the music even more radically than it did on Look Now Look Again. Suddenly it seems to me that the difference between this and, say, the Innocence Mission, is very subtle. Bill Kuehn's concussive drumming might be as much as half of it, in fact, and another quarter might be De Marrais' assertive, booming bass. Take those two away, leaving just Kyle Fischer's blurry, droning, faintly MBV-esque guitar to carry these songs, and I'm not sure I could tell you how Rainer Maria is different from the Rose Chronicles or, for that matter, the Gathering or Breathless. "There Will Be No Night" is spare and measured, something like a bedtime lullaby for an army that has learned how to sleep while marching, and as extra beats dodge in and out of the chorus it seems to me like De Marrais is encountering the refrain for the first time, picking through the words of the promise that morning will come as if she realizes how much the soldiers need to hear it, and so wants to make absolutely sure she says it correctly. "Atlantic" comes from thousands of miles west of Runrig's "The Mighty Atlantic", but the songs are similarly anthemic, Rainer Maria's invocations of "America the Beautiful" bringing them even closer, and I can imagine that this is the American shore's answer-song, a realist's counter to Runrig's sweeping idealism, a response that explains all the disappointment and numbness that really awaits pilgrims here, but concludes, in the end, even if it didn't start out to, that the continent's potential is still larger than any of that pain. And "Soul Singer", the conclusion of the triptych, is the most turbulent and cathartic of the three, but invert the dynamic graph, replacing waves of noise with pools of quiet, and I think you'd get a song shaped like one of Low's, a picture drawn as if lines are prohibitively expensive, and even dots are precious. And if this EP did nothing for me but suggest what Low would sound like if Mimi were a golem, that would be plenty.
Garlands: (Picnic, Lightning)
Another of the many musical cul-de-sacs I discovered last year, and haven't absorbed to my satisfaction yet, is the one that contains the Wedding Present and Orange Juice, who both sound to me, based on admittedly inadequate study, like inspired syntheses of Aztec Camera and Prefab Sprout's diffident jazz-pop with the Jam's mod-punk urgency and the Icicle Works and the Lightning Seeds' New Wave bounce. Both the Wedding Present and Orange Juice employ trebly guitar tones with feverishly fast strumming, making the electric guitar exhibit some of the Celtic personality of a mandolin, and "Bird on the Make", the opening track on the six-song Mister Records debut EP by the NYC band Garlands, marries that to a warbling, Morrissey-ish lead vocal, airy backing vocals, a writhing New Order-esque bass-line and what might even be an E-bowed guitar hook, and ends up with a throwbacks to the early-Eighties', John-Hughes-soundtrack conception of New Wave as earnest as anybody short of My Favorite. "Ancient Music" is slower and dreamier, swirling placidly somewhere between St. Christopher and Brideshead, or between the Dream Academy and the Church. "Bed and Breakfast" clicks back into gear, though, stomping with the Celtic aplomb (and fondness for china-crash cymbals) of Big Country or the Armoury Show. "Language", with its choirboy lead vocal and brittle, shimmery accompaniment, belongs to the lineage of the Chameleons and Geneva. "Huge Weeping Willows" starts out like it's going to be unabashed Hoodoo Gurus party rock, but once the guitars join in it starts sounding to me like the perfect pop song I never before realized the first two Echo & the Bunnymen albums lacked. And if "Shroot", the finale, were fourteen years younger and five beats-per-minute faster it could probably have replaced anything on the Pretty in Pink or Some Kind of Wonderful soundtracks. As with My Favorite, your fondness for this period the first time it came around may largely dictate your reaction to a revival of it, and a part of me worries that my instinctive affinity for these songs is the same intransigent nostalgia that leads to Oldies radio, but then again my generation had to listen to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Proud Mary" about a million times each when we were kids, so now maybe it's our turn.
The Skywriters: The Skywriters
There's an amusing, if pointless, argument to be had about whether the fact that more current indie bands don't sound like the Smiths and New Order is due to anything more principled than their own incompetence, but given how much innovation in music, historically, has basically come about by kids trying to imitate their favorite bands and failing in some interesting way, I'm not sure it makes a difference. Bands that really do manage to sound as much like original-issue New Wave brit-pop as the Garlands are by far the exception, for which the corresponding rule is bands like the Philadelphia quintet the Skywriters, whose self-titled five-song EP came out last year on the Providence label Brentwood Estates. I don't know how old the members of the Skywriters are, but my guess, based on the music, is that New Wave reached them secondhand, via some combination of Sarah and K Records, as they sound to me like a fairly cogent approximation of a cross between the Field Mice and Beat Happening. Rose or Bethany, whichever of the women it is singing, has an cheerfully unaffected delivery, like Heavenly's Amelia Fletcher without the English accent, and the rest of the band skips along with an artless oompah exuberance which momentarily leaves me amazed that every basement pop group doesn't come out playing skiffle. The booming, grooveless drums and one-note-at-a-time guitar hooks of "Movie Star" make the Posies' Failure sound overwritten. "Everytime I Pass the Test" careens from early-REM-like jangle to the Skywriters' own nod to scratchy Wedding Present guitar spasms to a nervous chorus that could have been borrowed from an old Guadalcanal Diary song. "Government Out of My Backyard", despite the defiant title, is wistful pop on the order of Suddenly, Tammy! played by people still learning their instruments. "Maybe Baby", with one of the guys joining in for a duet, sounds to me like Tullycraft halfway morphed into the Swimming Pool Q's. And "King of Noise", the last song, simultaneously mournful and giddy, may be what I hoped Amy Rigby's second album was all going to sound like. I probably find three more bands that sound like this every month, and I'm sure I don't discover a tenth of the ones that exist, but like heartfelt and obsessively self-critical zines by articulately frustrated fifteen-year-olds, or movies with ex-MSCL cast members, or taquerias who understand that guacamole isn't a liquid, I'd support them all if I could.
Mary Lou Lord / Sean Na Na: (split EP)
As if EPs weren't quite short and obscure enough, Kill Rock Stars opted to fill this six-song one with three songs each from Mary Lou Lord and Sean Na Na. In fact it's even more scattered than that, as the first of Mary Lou's three songs is actually her singing with the Raging Teens, doing Janis Martin's "Bang Bang" in what I think of as an imitation of the Stray Cats, although it's probably really an imitation of the same thing the Stray Cats were themselves imitating. If you liked the Stray Cats, you might like this. I didn't. The band sounds like they're having fun, but so do people playing charades while drunk. The other two songs are covers in what I consider Mary Lou's proper mode: a relaxed version of Lucinda Williams' "Hard Road", tinged with lap steel, dobro and mandolin, comes out sounding more like Mary Lou's solo covers than her full-band pop-songs; and an electrified spin through perennial source Nick Saloman's "Aim Low", with an almost-unrecognizable Bill Janovitz on backing vocals, is deliriously Byrdsy, and probably moves into second in my ranking of her many Saloman covers, more mature and complete, but not quite as rousing, as "Martian Saints".
Sean Na Na, perhaps surprisingly, has nothing to do with Tullycraft's Sean Tollefson, but Sean Tillman's reedy quaver is fundamentally similar. "Princess and the Pony" is set up like an angular Shudder to Think rant, but the goofy "ba ba bada" harmonies cajole it back into pop. The splayed "Stretch Marks" sounds a bit like an old Game Theory song on which they attempt to compensate for the absence of synthesizers with handclaps and toy bells. Jeremy Allen's "My Old France", unfortunately, I think wants to be a charging rock anthem, but it never quite gets over sounding like it was recorded in a laundry room. It does, however, feature what could well be the worst recorder solo on record, so do listen to it at least once.
Ninian Hawick: Steep Steps
At eight songs and almost thirty minutes, Steep Steps is the least EP-like of these EPs, but one of those eight is a remix of the first track, and the other seven have so little to do with each other that by the time you eliminate the ones you can't stand, you'll be left with something unassailably brief. "Mon Récit" is a lumbering, fractured synth groove over which a woman intones somber French, like a resignedly token attempt to seduce an automat. "Ballard of the Oread" is an abstract instrumental that appears to have been constructed almost entirely out of the noises of things being plugged or unplugged. "Kentigern Inquiry" is a sub-minute "Music for Airports" for when you want the people in the airport to leave it as soon as practical. "The Minch" is an equally short Schroeder-like piano exercise. "Phrasebook Wands" might have a dance-club future, but only if I'm underestimating how annoying Patrick Durgin's deadpan spoken delivery of random texts would be if you were on whatever people in clubs take these days. And "The House at Dumbarton Oaks" makes a good case that the sale of samplers should be more closely regulated.
The other song, though, is "Scottish Rite Temple Stomp", and I doubt either of us has ever heard anything so eagerly poised to be the Celtic-novelty-pop successor to "Come on Eileen" and "Funky Céilí". It bears about as much resemblance to authentic Celtic music as the McRib bears to a pig with dignity, but I'm quite sure nobody cares. It's three minutes long, it only has three or four chords, the lyrics make no sense, the bagpipes are fake but the handclaps are real, more than once it slams to a stop and makes a horrible buzzing noise for a few seconds, and I'm not convinced that Heather McElhatton didn't invent the cultural non sequiturs in the lyrics while the tape was rolling, but it's exactly the sort of song you love for a week, hate for nine years, and then love for the rest of your life. It's exactly the kind of song I would have danced myself into hyperventilation to when I was seventeen, and I'm thrilled to discover that my control over my own breathing hasn't improved appreciably since.
Arco: Ending Up
Ninian Hawick's Dreamy Records label-mates Arco are much more like I'd expect a band on a label called Dreamy to sound. Chris Healey sings in a low, haunted murmur, with hints of Thom Yorke and Mark Hollis, and the trio accompanies him with slow, solemn grace, like a half-speed Del Amitri. "Cry" sounds like a Nick Drake ballad about to burst into arena-leveling rock extravagance, but it never gets much farther than filament-thin synthetic violins and a rumbling bass. A languid harmonica and some acoustic guitar give "No-One at the Wheel" a prairie-campfire twang, but Healey sings it even more like Stuart Murdoch, and the combination is oddly reminiscent of Dire Straits' slow songs. "At Least" is the closest Arco come to Radiohead, and the rest of the phrases the title comes from are a matching pair of insincere "...you're not alone"s, for both sides of a misguided relationship, leading to a grim "...I'm not in love", but the melody remembers a happier past life, and after seven or eight times through it dawns on me that the narrator believes that the couple he's addressing will not, or at least should not, last, in which case the conclusion probably means that he is in love, presumably with one of them, and to me the idea of an unrequited love song written as an apparent apology for the status quo is worthy of Justin Currie. The first half of "Doubts Remain", the fourth and last song, is just Healey, an acoustic guitar and a whispery shaker rhythm, and even when the band joins in the whole thing rises only fractionally over a folk dirge. This is what I wanted Thom Yorke's younger brother's band to sound like. And now that I know that, I should go back and listen to Unbelievable Truth, who are Thom Yorke's brother's band, to see what they sound like when I'm not irritated at what they aren't.
The Electrosonics: Neutron Lullaby
If Dreamy really wanted to live up to their name, they ought to try to lure the Electrosonics away from Drive-In, as the three new songs on the six-track Neutron Lullaby are as ethereal as songs come. "Neutron Lullaby" itself is practically a single sustained chord, over which either Michaela Galloway or Heather Campbell sings in an evanescent falsetto. "Back on the Light" adds a fluttery synth-flute during its humming two-minute intro, and eventually transforms into a billowing, methodical, redemptive folk hymn with elements of Willard Grant Conspiracy, Trembling Blue Stars and Low. "Prodrome" is mostly a groaning instrumental torn between urges towards drum-and-bass minimalism and blaring rock strut, a tension that the singers' arrival, at the end, does little to resolve.
The other three songs are remixes, and perhaps because the source songs are so abstract to begin with, these even-more-abstract reconceptions seem like a continuation of the album, to me, not a tangent. Kevin Bolster's Object remix of "Neutron Lullaby" shortens it and removes everything that doesn't sound like Future Sound of London. I like FSOL, and they haven't done anything in a long time, so this seems like a better idea to me than it usually might. Andrew Withycombe's Pre-ignition mix of "Back on the Light" hacks off the song part of the song, and turns the two-minute intro into a four-minute stand-alone meditation, which feels like an editorial suggestion more than a nature-changing manipulation. And Buddha on the Moon's rescrambled "Dream Sequence" version of "Neutron Lullaby" origamis the undulating original into a two-minute mechano-pop pterodactyl. All dreams should have one.
Sodastream: Practical Footwear
There's bound to be a six-degrees-of-separation path from the Electrosonics to Sodastream (let's see, singer Karl Smith had a single on Chapter Records, which is run by Guy Blackman of Sleepy Township, whose other singer and songwriter is Mia Schoen, who is in Huon with Andrew Withycombe, who did one of the Electrosonics remixes; I'm sure there's a shorter route), but if you base connections on musical style, instead of personnel, it's one tiny hop from Sodastream to Belle and Sebastian. There are several Belle and Sebastian songs that don't sound as much like Belle and Sebastian as most of the six songs on this Tugboat EP. Karl Smith's breathy singing sounds uncannily like Stuart Murdoch's, and the gentle folk-pop arrangements, heavy on double bass, cello, violin and acoustic guitar, fit seamlessly into the Nick-Drake-by-way-of-Sarah-Records aesthetic. "Unsteady" winds the strings around a funereal piano. The gruff bass on "West 45th" is nearly subsonic, and the song is vaguely like a slow-motion version of Marine Research's "Parallel Horizontal". "Autumn Sung" is less gloomy, its guitar arpeggios contorting in a funhouse mirror, but the drums and cymbals can't force Smith to sing any faster. The martial, propulsive "Hope Grocery" leans towards B&S's "The State I Am In", and "Boss", with its elegiac trumpet, casts a sidelong glance towards "Lazy Line Painter Jane". Only "Fog", the sinuous and sinister final track, veers much from the path, darting around evasively before the long crescendo into the caterwauling coda, followed by a long epilogue of children arguing with birds, which is in turn followed by an eerie instrumental reprise, as if Smith is thinking about starting another song, but eventually decides against it. Given how easy it is to construe Belle and Sebastian as a permanent floating Field Mice homage, Sodastream's Belle and Sebastian homage may be a level too recursive for you, but recursion is rarely evident in the songs themselves. I'd like this EP if Belle and Sebastian didn't exist, and I'd like it if it said Belle and Sebastian on the cover, so I guess I just like it.
The Arrogants: Your Simple Beauty
The prize of this batch of EPs, though, and the one that focused my attention on all of them, is the six-song Shelflife debut by the Arrogants, who are three McFerson brothers and ex-Majestic 12 singer Jana Wittren. None of the six songs, however, is why this disc lodged in my brain. "Let You Down" and "Smile Lines" both sound like the Innocence Mission, pleasant and delicate, but I've never managed to treat the Innocence Mission as more than background music. "Lovesick" is a dizzying punk-pop dash in the mold of the Fastbacks or Cub. On the sentimental, string-buoyed "Costa Rica" Wittren sounds like Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays. "Will You Notice When I'm Gone" is acoustic and serene. "Nothing Good Will Ever Come of This" is pensive and jazzy, with bright, chiming piano and simmering organ. The seventh track, unlisted, is "Nothing Good Will Ever Come of This" again, just without the drums, and while I like it better this way, it's hardly life-changing.
The eighth and final track, though, is. It's an acoustic version of "Lovesick", and in place of the cartoon fury of the listed version this one substitutes a single haltingly Travis-picked guitar, and lets Jana sing the words at the pace the lyrics call for. "I'm not sad, / And I don't want you back", the chorus insists. "I just miss the feeling of being in love." The performance could scarcely be simpler, and the sentiment is hardly new, but together they floor me. Most love songs, however decisively they pretend to address a person, are not pleas, they are eulogies to how relationships have made us feel. This is another answer to the recurring question about why romantics listen to sad pop songs: the songs don't remind us of what we're missing, they supply it. As long as this version of "Lovesick" lasts, I'm not sad, either. I'm not lonely. While this song plays, I step outside my loneliness, and for a few moments I can see how luminous and beautiful it is. This is why we think pop can save us, and why we think saving is necessary: because every once in a while a song this simple shows us ourselves from a better vantage point than inside.
Not Drowning, Waving: "Spark"
And even that isn't why I'm once again so paralyzed with wonder tonight, able to type only if I don't concentrate on how many muscles are involved. Up until Monday I thought "Lovesick" was not only the single most perfect pop song I'd come across in months, but virtually a lock for the number-one spot on my 2000 song list, even though the year is not even two months underway. Monday afternoon a mail-order package arrived, mainly containing a bunch of old albums on Flying Nun, coursework for my latest self-education project. Along with them were supposed to be one album and one single by the defunct Australian band Not Drowning, Waving, who I'd heard half of a pleasant song by on the MIT radio station one morning. When I opened the box I discovered that the NDW single, which I thought from the catalog was a commercial one, was actually a one-track 1990 promotional single, which irked me because I don't knowingly buy promos, and certainly not for how much this one cost. My irritation faded a bit when I put the disc on and discovered that "Spark" was, in fact, the song I'd heard (I didn't know the title, and the album I got doesn't contain it). My irritation faded a little more when I realized that I liked the song even more than I guessed from hearing part of it. And then, just because I was doing something and didn't want to change CDs after less than five minutes, I hit Repeat, and listened to the song twice in a row. Then three times. Four times. I don't remember how long it was before I finally released it from the loop. "Perfect pop" isn't the same thing as "a song I can listen to a dozen times in a row", a priori, but I find that for me it is in practice. If I sat down and composed a list of perfect pop songs, I'd impose all sorts of criteria, but if I entrust the task to my body, instead of my mind, and derive the list from experience, from the very few times when I have sat and listened to one song not just two or three times, but literally for an hour, then the five most perfect pop songs in the history of the universe are: "Crush Story", by Too Much Joy; "Insomniac", by Echobelly; "Say Yes to Everything", by St. Christopher; "Lovesick", by the Arrogants; and "Spark". There are songs I think more of, but these five transcend thought.
And unless I'm misremembering the vigils I held with the other four, "Spark" is the repetition champion. I haven't had a free block of time longer than two hours since it came, so all I can tell you is that so far the only reason I have turned this song off is to fulfill some commitment I made before I owned it. According to whatever chemicals control my addiction to "Spark", a perfect pop song doesn't have to be very complicated or sophisticated. It's a full-band song, not an acoustic sketch like "Lovesick", but so are the other three on the list. This one is the most overproduced of the set, dripping in late-Eighties studio ichor. There's a sugary piano line that's part "Manic Monday", part "Hill Street Blues" theme and part Bruce Hornsby. There's a guitar solo that's hardly more nuanced than "Sister Christian". The drums sound like they were played by a wind-up polar bear and recorded through maple syrup. The singer stays within my vocal range, which is great for me singing along but hardly a metric of melodic aspiration. There probably isn't a note in the whole song that you couldn't predict three measures in advance, even if you hadn't heard it a hundred times yet. But how else could it be? Comfort is the only thing that works right in repeat; you can't be challenged over and over again, or reduced to tears, or urged to punch your fist through a wall. I can listen to this song over and over precisely because nothing about it surprises me. It is the crystallization of everything I've internalized about music up until the age of almost thirty-three.
It's a love song, of course. So are the other four, but this is the only one that isn't essentially isolationist. "I thought that this would lead to something, / And I love the stories that you tell, / And I like hearing about your family, / All the things they do seem wild to me, / All those weird wonderful people", goes part of the refrain. "Your dad's out driving taxis", starts the second verse. Love songs ought to be the most life-affirming kind of art, but usually they aren't. "I Want It That Way" is petulant, "Baby One More Time" selfish; these songs are corrupt. They try, with a frequently caustic intensity, to form pair bonds to the exclusion of the rest of the threads that hold us into our communities. They are expressions of possessiveness, which may be desire but shouldn't be love. True love songs should have other characters in them, parents and friends and heroes and enemies. True love, and this is where even William Goldman had it wrong, doesn't love a face, or a body, or even a person, it loves a life. Every noble emotion is either part of true love, or a manifestation of it, from awe to curiosity to faith to patience to selflessness to courage to insight to anxiety to vertigo. The best love song, and according to my blood and tendons and skin this is it, can even be sung to nobody in particular, or to somebody in particular but you don't know whom, because a true love song is sung to the world that is necessary for the life. The one you're looking for may be unhappily married to your best friend, or they may be waiting where a perpendicularly-fired bullet comes out the other side of a desktop globe, but either way you can't reach them by drawing your sphere more and more tightly around yourself, you can only embrace them by embracing everything they could possibly be. The world's a big thing to embrace, admittedly, but remember how many songs are waiting to be your arms. If I found two of these songs in two weeks, how many can you find by summertime? How many times have I just listened to this song? At the speed of sound, how far could these waves have spread by now? For a few enchanted hours it seems to me like I could open my window and these noises would flow out over the world, and everything they touch would finally know how to be true to themselves, and thus how to be true to everything else. The snow will fall into snowmen, and the snowmen will go to work for us, and we'll take a week off to find out when I finally get sick of this song. It hasn't happened yet, but it will. It has to. All love songs have to end. Love songs are instructions for what to do after they're over. Spend a night with one, but it still ends in the morning. We turn off the stereo, walk out into a radiant new world, and start looking for the things we learned overnight that have made it immeasurably more magnificent than the drab one we endured yesterday.