Monday, September 17, 2007

Throw Out the Line

1. Okay, so with grad school and my job(s) et al, clearly any sort of real scheduling is beyond me. I'll be trying to do entries as often as possible. Please be patient, and maybe utilize our handy dandy RSS feed? It's sad to see so many other oeuvreblogs slow or even stop, but I promise you TMW,TMW will keep going until it's done, no matter how long that takes. I may only manage an entry or two (or three) a week for a while, though.

2. Often with Low's songs, especially from the Long Division/The Curtain Hits the Cast period, my impression of each track in my memory when I'm not actually listening to them can be reduced to a single glowing moment. Often this moment is the chorus/refrain/title, and so when I think of the song I tend to focus on that moment to the exclusion of all else. While writing TMW,TMW I've noticed that tendency and have started trying to compensate for it. It's mostly worked, and having Low songs I know and love surprise me has gotten correspondingly rarer. But "Throw Out the Line" still did - so much of the song for me is that lambent moment when Alan and Mimi call out "throw out the line" that I'd remembered it as starting the song. In reality you have 20 minutes of prime watery guitar and unhurried cymbal/snare timekeeping (plus bass, back there somewhere, in that early-Low way where I can never quite place it). It's that trick they pull again, where the emotional/literal content of whatever they're singing when they sing like that is utterly subsumed by the way they sing, until "throw out the line" might as well be a source of comfort, hope, and love. They sing the title twice before the rest of the lyrics, and then four time after. For once it's those first two times that are more important, gifting the beginning of the song with a kind of still light that evokes images of connection and aid more than the rest of the song really winds up warranting; at least, if you can get past that surface impression and actually pay attention. I'm not being facetious; it actually is difficult when Alan and Mimi sing like that.

3. The rest of the lyrics are pretty interesting. It's apparently "about a friend from school who was an oceanographer in alaska," and also contains "the epitome of our water theme hang-up" (cf. I guess "Sea"? When Alan writes that I go "oh right, I guess they were kind of into water at the time," but I have a damn hard time thinking of examples other than the aquatic tremble of Alan's amp). I've got family in Alaska (the Kodiak Islands, actually) and have been up to visit, and maybe that's why "Throw Out the Line" is more redolent for me of wilderness than most of Low's work ("Sunflower" is the only other track I can think of that does that, and for similarly irrational/personal/obscure reasons). But in any case, it's interesting that the other lyrics aren't broken up by any renditions of the title refrain, and don't even really have a verse break between them, although the topic does seem to change half way through:

Man overboard
Passenger fall
Maybe the angels'll take him
Come back no more
Bride of my thoughts and anger
Nothing to show
Patience and strength come springtime
Where will you go?

Some of it makes sense with the story of Alan's friend - "Man overboard" works with oceanography, and "Patience and strength come springtime / Where will you go?" definitely sounds like Alaska. But what I wonder, again, about Alan's songwriting methods when there was some sort of germ from people/situations in his real life, is there actually a more sinister/involved backstory than he told us? Or did he just tend to build on this kind of drama and menace from the bare facts? I'm inclined towards the latter (seems like a more regular way to do things), but I wonder sometimes.

4. It's interesting how different Alan's take on the song from inside is, a regular feature of Low's old song backgrounds page. He says "wish i would have relaxed a bit on the vocal. sounds like someone's stringin' me up," but I really don't hear it. Honestly, his voice sounds more pinched on "Swingin'" among others, and mostly what I think of his vocals here is how smooth and clear he sounds along Mimi. He definitely sounds relaxed to me, but who knows - if he'd done it the way he later wished he did, maybe I'd love the results even more.

5. I picked "Throw Out the Line" mostly because after spending the weekend at a paddle-in camping site at Algonquin Park with family, I've definitely been feeling kind of wilderness-y. And also because the single best moment of the weekend was definitely sitting in a canoe with my girlfriend in a completely still lake, the dusk setting, mist coming off of the water, and hearing silence for the first time in years. I wouldn't have wanted to hear this song then, but its calm inevitability (another quality of those years that Low have mastered and thus moved past) recalls the moment for me, especially given the nautical theme.

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