It's weird...the connections that music, words and memories can spin up. Like this:
When I was just a kid we would sometimes get these phone calls from an elderly woman. Wish I could remember her name. She always asked for the same person (wish I could remember that name too...let's use "Alice".) Each time I would have to inform this poor lady that she'd dialed the wrong number. She seemed somewhat confused by this. Mostly, after some gentle convincing, she would just say "OK, thank you" and then hang up. One time though, I asked her if she knew Alice's last name. I was pleased to hear that she did, and engaged her some some smalltalk while I looked up the name in the phone book. It was a nearly triumphant feeling to be helping out this lady. Very satisfying.
Until the clicking started.
Our mystery caller had begun dialing her friend's number without first hanging up. It was heartbreaking. She seemed surprised to hear my voice after dialing Alice. I told her that she needed to hang up before dialing the new number.
And with that, she was gone. The confused calls vanished.
That was probably the first time in my young life that I understood the sentiment draped over "Hope I Die Before I Get Old".
Now, it's been a good number of years since that sad situation has come to mind. Today it came back via Rilo Kiley during "a man/me/then Jim":
- a woman calls my house once a week she's always selling things
some charity phone plan, a subscription to a magazine
as i turned her down i always do there was something trembling in her voice
hey, what troubles you?
i'm surprised you noticed
my husband he's leaving and i can't convince him to stay
and he'll take our daughter with him she wants to go with him anyway
i'm sorry i'm hard to live with but living is the problem for me
i'm selling people things they don't want when i don't know what you need
Again, a story of an unusual intimacy via a telephone exchange. This is what the best kind of pop music can do. It's not just a story. If you're really taken with it, you can forget who you are. You live in the story. But that's only part of the magic. The music itself supports the suspension of your reality. While you're engrossed in this new world, you're also humming along, singing, drumming on the dashboard.
This happened to me a lot while listening to More Adventurous. The music shifts from power pop to folk to country-ish ballady things and back. It's great to hear a band play with so many textures. Not just guitar and keys, but mandolins, horns, vibraphones, orchestra bells, glockenspiels, mellotrons and strings. Lots and lots of texture. Jenny Lewis' sweet and expressive voice makes me think of Mary Lou Lord with a little Kay Hanley thrown in.
"Portions For Foxes" has that power pop thing where you're singing along with the very first chorus, already looking forward to the next. "I Never" begins as a country-ish ballad (that sorta wants to become "Hopelessly Devoted To You" meets "Ooh, Baby, Baby") that morphs into a string arrangement at the end, before laying out a dual guitar lead that's almost Allman-esque. Even guitarist Blake Sennett gets into the act with his solo acoustic "Ripchord". All pop music should be so internally eclectic. If there was musical justice, Rilo Kiley would be a household name.
Of course, you (mostly) can't change the world with pop music. But...you never know. Art serves many functions. One of them is building connections from people to other physical and mental worlds. Escapism? Yes, sometimes. But what I'm looking for is empathy.
(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)