Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Such Great Heights

When the Postal Service first came out with "Such Great Heights," the song seemed more inconsequential and silly to me than several of the songs Ben Gibbard has written for Death Cab for Cutie.

But this week, I heard Sam Beam sing a very slow, acoustic version of the same song on Iron & Wine's excellent two-disc set of B-sides, rarities, and leftovers, Around the Well. It brought up two images: the Victorian-era bathers waving on the cover of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (pictured); and the Hardy Boys-style zeppelin pilots named the Chums of Chance, in Thomas Pynchon's novel Against the Day. No real point here, though something in the sounds and visions makes me shiver, hard to tell whether it's in joy or terror:

"They will see us waving from such great heights,
'Come down now!' they'll say.
But everything looks perfect from far away,
'Come down now!' but we'll stay."


Ruth said...

Imagine, only you may be bringing all these pieces together in joy or terror.

Loring Wirbel said...

I just made it to the end of Disc 2 of the Iron & Wine collection. It ends with a nine-minute number that is one of the most haunting and beautiful folk songs I've ever heard, The Trapeze Swinger. Now I see where the album's title, Around the Well, comes from. This song must be heard.
Here is the original studio version, which apparently was used in the movie In Good Company:
And here is a live version that Sam sings on YouTube:
Gorgeous stuff.

Loring Wirbel said...

What? The links did not show up.

Studio version is here:

Live version is here:

notes from the desert said...

Glad you've found the beauty of Iron & Wine.

Here's a great recording of Love Vigilantes recorded on Jimmy Fallon:

Also, check out some of Iron & Wine's live recordings:

They really should pay me for this.

Ruth said...

Wow, it's gorgeous. I'm in a trance now.

Loring Wirbel said...

Oh, I've loved I&W for a while now, but even more since Sam added textures in the Shepherd's Dog era. I wonder how many people who heard "Love Vigilantes" recognized it was a New Order cover? Sam's musical knowledge is pretty broad.

Loring Wirbel said...

Oh, and here's the cover of "Such Great Heights," from whence this whole thread arose: