Life can get busy, hectic. Sometimes, it’s just all too much and we need some respite from the grind. We need quiet time, or at least space to refasten our anchors to solid ground. Music can help with that. It can soothe us by way of gentle tones and comforting melodies. It can remind us too that we’re not alone in the need for a bit of restfulness.
So, what did our Deeper Cuts Trio choose when it comes to the above? Let’s find out!
Sometimes a song comes into your life over and over again; the origins can be wildly different but equally important, and each of them build on top of themselves until you have a song that sends you back to several places all at once.
For me, that’s Blackbird by the Beatles. It’s a tranquil song even without any personal attachments. Paul McCartney’s voice leans into a cozy lullaby, the lyrics are simple and beautiful, and the bird song at the end brings about feelings of peaceful solitude. It’s all a masterpiece.
Then I add in the fact that I was played it often in my very young years, mostly as a lullaby. And add in the fact that it’s one of the very first songs my father ever taught me how to play on the guitar – one I still play automatically whenever I need to test out an instrument (or practice my own skills, rudimentary as they may be). And THEN add in the fact that, as I was about to graduate high school, my dearest choir conductor of six years sat all of us seniors around in a circle and played it for us as a farewell.
It’s an amalgamation of memories, all of them signalling safety, comfort, and the ability to let my guard down and feel truly relaxed and cared for. Not bad for just over two minutes.
If I think of “restful”, centering” and “calm” when it comes to music, my mind immediately goes to Bruce Cockburn’s 1974 album Salt, Sun and Time. It’s a joyful album but it’s a quiet album too; Cockburn did a lot of quiet folk albums around this time, but they often had lots of internal struggle and turmoil lyrically. Salt, Sun and Time has surrendered that sense of struggle, at least temporarily, or has found solace in something bigger.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the title track, “Salt, Sun and Time” which is a simple instrumental piece—just an acoustic guitar so close-miced that you can hear the neck of the guitar creak. Cockburn’s open tuning and finger plucking style imbues the song with a lot of its beauty.
It starts with a simple melody that builds to a climax and then diffuses that climax to repeat the cycle a few more times. The pace is comparatively languid and the tune is delivered with a real lack of fussiness. To my mind it embodies calm and a sort of beautiful, and earned, sense of peace.
My choice for this is “This is a Low” by Blur. This song isn’t exactly a lullaby when it comes to certain textures one hear’s in it. There’s some pretty noisy guitar on this in places thanks to guitarist Graham Coxon’s remarkable axemanship! But there is something inherently restful about this song.
Part of the reason for this is singer Damon Albarn’s sleepy delivery. Also, the lyrics cite several zones in the British Shipping forecast map which instantly ties it to a time of day when life isn’t so noisy. The shipping forecast is broadcast in the UK late at night and early in the morning, and a very familiar cultural fixture it is, too. So I suppose the subject matter kind of suggests a quiet and serene time of day and state of mind all at once.
But maybe the reason it resonates with me as a restful song is because it communicates the late-night-early-morning thoughts of an exhausted person with a lot on their plate so effectively. This is a snapshot of someone who’s seeking something familiar to ground themself during a tumultuous period in their lives. It’s a tired and lonely song. In some ways for such a song I personally find very restful, it’s quite restless at its core, thematically speaking. Coxon’s aforementioned noisy guitar helps to reinforce that very idea.
But “This is a Low” is a song that reminds me that, at times, we all find ourselves seeking out the familiar, the simple, the predictable (like the Shipping Forecast is for many). This is particularly true when there’s a lot on our minds, and when we find ourselves overcome by the din of life. It’s this that makes it a comforting and ultimately restful tune for me; that we are not alone in feeling alone sometimes.
What about you, Deeper Cuts fans?
What song helps to center you with a restful effect?
We’d love to hear about your picks!
Tell us about them in the comments section.