Music: The Tallest Man on Earth

Dear readers,

The following are annotations I sent my close friend tomemos, to accompany his birthday present. If you haven’t heard the songs themselves, delay no longer!

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Naturally, I don’t want to try to shape these songs overmuch, either, but I can offer my impressions of them, abetted by Google, which informs me that a “cadejo” is a Central American spirit that appears to travelers at night. The white cadejo protects travelers from harm; the black one, an incarnation of the devil, leads them to their deaths.

Probably the song that troubles me the most is “Sometimes the blues…”, so much so that I find it odd he would use that as the title for his EP. I really don’t know what it means when, after announcing that sometimes the blues is just a passing bird, he sings “why can’t that always be?” So, in my confusion, I have to guess, just as I’ve had to guess what Adele means by “rolling in the deep.” He may be saying that the unhappiness that haunts him intermittently, and seems to follow him around, is itself both transient and beautiful understood in hindsight. Yet, despite this, there are some sadnesses that go so deep they don’t fade away with the next month or place, and there are some times when he isn’t able to summon the artistic vision that transforms longing into a thing of beauty.

Musically, the song feels unfinished. One reviewer compared it to Oasis; I’d almost agree with that, but I’d say it sounds like an Oasis demo. (And, of course, when I foolishly spend $20 on the remastered collector’s edition of What’s The Story, Morning Glory?, I will have those demos.) He seems to want the electric guitar to be a jarring instrument; the song signifies an anthem it declines to become.

“The Wild Hunt” makes me cheerful. I like the energetic strumming, reminiscent of so much early Dylan, especially Dylan’s more deliberately martial songs, like “Masters of War” and “The Times They Are A-Changin”. Lyrically, it’s a melancholy song, like most of his work, including another standout on the EP, “Like The Wheel.”

“Like The Wheel” caught my ear at first because I loved how he constructed it around a prayer. It’s the kind of prayer that still makes sense even when his listener is secular and “my Lord” is an empty figure, because he seems to be praying to a person he’d like to become. Looking at the lyrics more closely now, there’s a lot more than that going on, and I’m reminded of how similar the line “I plan to be forgotten when I’m gone,” from “The Wild Hunt,” is to “Please let the kindness of forgetting set me free.”

All these references to hiding and being forgotten, somewhere in the wilderness, are hymns to transformation: “Well if you could reinvent my name / Well if you could redirect my day […] perhaps I’ll reach the other side.” That’s why there is so little difference between the black and white cadejo: for him, both are omens of luck. The self for which he is searching, he imagines as a physical treasure buried in a remote and forbidding place, and most of what he writes captures him at some point along the way there. Even on his first album, the same themes appeared, except the catalyst is hibernation rather than travel (“And if I ever get to slumber / I’ll be that mole deep in the ground / And I won’t be found”). It’s less that he’s a solipsist, or indifferent to other people, and more that he’s imagining re-finding all his comrades in that distant continent where their paths again converge.

Until then, we endure, and like his sparkling, finger-picked arpeggios, bright and evanescent thoughts give us enough light for the hesitant, necessary march. The wild hunt is coming, and we live until the call.

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