I’m in Athens, Ga – one of my favorite places in the world – and after a delicious dinner I happened by the Georgia Theater were The New Pornographers were playing. I was delighted to see that Neko Case was performing with the band. While I like them fine without Ms. Case, with her I think they’re exceptional.
It was late, and I had an early start the next day so I knew I couldnâ€™t stay for the whole set. I thought to myself, “All I really want to hear is ‘The Laws Have Changed.'” Bam…as if they read my mind, my wish was granted, and they broke into what must be not only their best song, but also a song that contains – to my ears – one of the most beautiful melodic/harmonic moments in song; it occurs when Ms. Case does the subtle trill with her exquisite voice and adds a couple extra syllables to the word “unknown” (you’ll find it at 33 seconds in the video below).
Who knows why that particular vocal inflection grabs me the way it does. There are other musical moments that do it to me: the beginning of Miles’ “‘Round About Midnight,” the string outro in REM’s “Nightswimming,” Bob’s “whoa oh whoa oh whoa” in “Jokerman,” pretty much all of A Love Supreme. For me, it’s these moments that keep me searching. You don’t find them often, but when you do, they sustain you. They’re sort of my definition of art.
Watching Ms. Case create this little, perfect moment of art reminded me of what a great artist she is, and how she truly achieved something with the creation of her most recent record, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. It’s a record I go back to over and over again, and it delights on so many levels. Certainly, here voice is perfect, but beyond that, the lyrics are intriguing, deep and inscrutable all at once.
It’s a record that’s been out for a while (and hopefully a new one is on the way soon), but if you’re not familiar with it…remedy that situation.
So, I say it again, there’s something special about Athens; weird, beautiful musical moments occur here. I’m just glad I got to be here when one did.