Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Armchairs and running

I'm still obsessed with Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha, as fine an album as I expect to hear all year. I avoid raving about things that I like to others because it always disappoints me when they don't share my enthusiasm and gradually leads to loss of respect for that person. I shall not have friends with lousy tastes.

I kid.

Not about Armchair Apocrypha, though. I tout it to anyone who cares to listen, but I always qualify my praises with "I think..." The album should be heard from beginning to end to be properly appreciated, but each song can stand on their own. However, listened together end to end, the songs play off each other, like a symphony with various movements. At one point it is clever and catchy talking about preparing for death in a "fiery crash" then it becomes a heartbreaking lament for lost love, as in "Armchairs." For me, the hallmark of anything great is that once it ends, you feel a loss that you'll never again experience it for the first time. I had that feeling with Armchair Apocrypha, but even though it is now a familiar sound to me, I still crave hearing it over and over again. With each listen something presents itself that I never noticed before, a sweet lip smack, a swell of strings, a whimsical whistling overture, or a lovely sigh that cuts straight to the heart.

The song "Armchairs" is probably the best example of rediscovery after a few listens. I liked the song well enough the first time I heard it, but I don't usually listen to lyrics very closely the first few times I hear a song. So it wasn't until a week into my obsession with Armchair Apocrypha, after at least a dozen listens, that I listened closely to the song. It was the opening lyrics that got me:

I dreamed you were a cosmonaut
Of the space between our chairs
And I was a cartographer
Of the tangles in your hair

It's lines like these that make me wish that someone broke my heart so I can thoroughly understand the meaning. I would sing this song over and over again and feel the heartbreak, so that I would feel like I was the one bellowing when Bird gets to the song's climax:

You didn't write you didn't call
It didn't cross your mind at all

It's possible I am misunderstanding the song, but I suppose it doesn't matter. This is how it makes me feel, that time is, indeed, a "crooked bow."

"Armchairs" isn't a song one would typically listen to while running, but I find myself playing it on my iPod as I run on the treadmill. The melody has a calming effect on me, helping me relax as I run, and at seven minutes long, I'm pretty much in a groove by the time it ends. The song was in my head when I ran the Pacific Shoreline Half Marathon, and I wouldn't mind having it there again when I run LA.

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