Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nick Drake- Pink Moon

I don't want to give you the wrong idea, but Pink Moon is one of the albums I always listen to when I'm depressed. I don't listen to it because it is a depressing album. I listen to it because it is the eloquent expression of what it feels like to be depressed. So many bands have made such awful music with such artless lyrics about depression and sadness for so many years that the whole thing has been robbed of any merit. Yet Pink Moon is as perfect and poetic a mood piece as you could hope to find in any artform.

Pink Moon is the most serenely sparse album I've ever heard. It is an argument for stripping down your music and doing as much as possible with as little as possible. It's interesting that there remains some debate about whether it's only Drake playing acoustic guitar on the songs. Many claim he would have had to overdub to play this surprisingly complicated music. Whether he did or not, I've always thought of Pink Moon as a lesson to all future musicians, and singer/songwriter types especially. Drake went the opposite way that most do now, ending his career with a minimalist album instead of starting from minimalism and gradually becoming more orchestrated and ornate, as, say, Elliott Smith and Iron and Wine did.

It's hard to explain what Drake accomplished here, since those who haven't heard the album yet will assume his acoustic guitar playing is either showy or monotonous. So said non-listeners may think that the sole use of piano on the title track would make that the most distinctive and track here, but Drake's acoustic playing and melancholy lyrics give each song its own character. Think of how many albums you've heard where the band has dozens of instruments at their disposal yet every song sounds the same and the whole thing goes on for 15 minutes too long. With a mere acoustic, Drake turns in a diverse and memorable set of songs: the humming and repetitive, blues-y guitar part of 'Know' make it sound like a Leadbelly cover, while 'Things Behind The Sun' offers seemingly cold advice that blooms on the joyous sounding "take your time and you'll be fine" line. Best of all, Pink Moon is a lean 28 minutes long. Any longer and it would start to become monotonous.

I may have started by saying this album is an eloquent expression of what it feels like to be depressed, but whenever I've listened to it, I always find it to be comforting and hopeful. It's no secret that Drake suffered from depression, yet I don't buy that Pink Moon or any of his releases predicted his death/possible suicide. To me, this album is what it feels like to be depressed, but it's the sort of depression where you know, deep down, you are going to get over it and feel better. You can't close an album with a delicate song like 'From The Morning' and be a hopeless sad bastard. If you listen closely to that warm voice of his, from time to time you can almost hear him smiling as he sings. True, there is great sadness, loneliness, and alienation in Drake's music, but there is also comfort for those feeling such things.

And there is also hope. Nick Drake had hope, because hopeless people don't create anything, let alone albums of such transcendent beautiful sadness.

5 Poorly Drawn Stars Out Of 5

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