Saturday, August 22, 2015

Music To Write By: Andrew Peterson's "You Came So Close"

Why Listen? For an object lesson in the artistic power of surprise; melancholy and melodic ambient post-rock.

Longtime Andrew Peterson fans must've been shocked after first listening to "You Came So Close" on Counting Stars, the singer-songwriter's seventh studio album. Whether poppy or pensive, sophisticated or spare, almost all of his music had one thing in common: It was informed by folk music. But "You Came So Close" brushes all of that aside in the first few bars. Forget sprightly banjo licks and double stopped violin flourishes. Channeling Sigur Rós, an arpeggiated, three-note riff meets droning drum work, and the song structure itself reinforces the ambient effect. Essentially chorus-less, the tune slowly swells into two crescendos, each of which suddenly slumps into silence. Peterson's voice floats above it all, both melodic and melancholy as he recounts an adulterer's confession of unfaithfulness to his wife:
You could no more kill the darkness
Than you could raise the sun,
And the sky was cold and black
Like the barrel of a gun.
Apocalyptic imagery punctuates the man's struggle, emphasizing how he "came so close to letting go." Simple enough, but the song surprises, firstly by having the marriage miraculously survive the infidelity and secondly by throwing out a final verse that seems almost non sequitur:
And the sky in Nashville,
It can bend you low
'Cause the winter here is gray
Without a trace of snow.

But there is no shadow
On the silver stars,
And the colder the night is,
The closer the heavens are.
Of course, a little rumination reveals that the lines are entirely apropos, a metaphorical embodiment of the song's main theme. Hope exists. Darkness doesn't equal doom. Struggle on, and don't let go. It isn't an unfamiliar point, just one that Peterson drives home with the power of surprise.

No comments: