I remember a book from when I was about ten years old, something like A Wrinkle In Time or one of those fascinating imaginative visions of other worlds and things unseen.
My brain stretches hard to recall a passage about tapping into a current of singing that existed outside of normal time, these pulsing jetstreams of melody and poetry and all the human longing – timeless and universal. Always there. Not always heard.
When I listen to “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine, that’s the closest I can come to expressing its perfection. Opening with the tinkle of a windchime, it sounds like waking from a dream on your front porch in the late afternoon in springtime, or maybe not waking at all but being suspended. Somewhere where –for once– you can hear the currents.
“Please remember me, happily, by the rosebush laughing, with bruises on my chin….” the song begins, with golden beauty and purplish contusions from the first lines. The song weaves those two threads of our sweetest joys and our saddest failings over and under for the next ten minutes, with a feel of looking back from a distance. The things we carry with us, the strange variance of memory. Sam Beam crafts a stunning, endless, hypnotically rhythmic masterpiece that feels like it has always existed, and you just walked somewhere into the middle.
It’s about death and the pearly gates and how we might feel when we get there, and the eloquent graffiti that might greet us on the walls outside. “Lost and found.” “Don’t look down.” “Tell my mother not to worry.”
It’s about dreams among the fallen trees of our babies that may have never been born. It’s about uphill clawing, colored birds, and remembering the time in the car behind the carnival with your hand between my knees. “Please remember me, my misery, and how it lost me all I wanted.” It is, in a word, perfect.
Nothing compares to the original recording (from the In Good Company soundtrack), but this live version is humble and as unaffected as they come.
IRON & WINE
LIVE ON KCRW, MORNING BECOMES ECLECTIC
November 29, 2007
Peace Beneath The City
Sodom South Georgia
Boy With A Coin
The Trapeze Swinger
He Lays In The Reins (Calexico cover)
ZIP: SAM BEAM ON KCRW
[top image credit Anne Teliczan]