Back when it was a going concern, Stylus used to run a column called "Seconds," in which various writers would reflect on "perfect moments in pop" by writing short essays or reflections on particularly striking songs. I always enjoyed that column, and though I'm far too disorganized to do anything like a regular feature on my blog, I thought it might be worth reviving here as an irregular feature (especially given that my original intent when starting this blog was to write about music).
Bark Psychosis - "The Black Meat"
To kick off, I thought I'd use one of my all-time favourites: Bark Psychosis' "The Black Meat," from their 2004 album ://Codename: Dustsucker. There are many reasons I love this song, not least of which is its distinctive three-part structure. The abrupt stop followed by the eruption of the horns that heralds the second half of the song is just glorious, and the sudden dissolve into fog and moaning trumpets for the final minute and forty seconds is gorgeous. It's jazz in the way that Talk Talk's later albums are jazz (that is, not very, but it uses jazz's vocabulary in interesting ways) and it sounds amazing: there haven't been many albums better produced than Dustsucker and Bark Psychosis' earlier album, Hex (1994).
There is more to this song than arranging and production tricks, though. I love the way Graham Sutton's lyrics combine concrete detail ("I stand on the shore of a strange land / With my back to the wind on the black sand") and dreamlike suggestiveness ("Trees are ahead / One for you, one for me"). What's more, I love the feel of the song. It's sunny yet sombre at the same time, Sutton's voice full of melancholy that the horns, making playful knots and loops of the melody, counter but don't dispel. There's something tropical (particularly the downright humid first notes from the electric piano), but the end of the song feels like mist creeping over a beach in winter. The song has a deeply lonesome core, though it's one of the least nocturnal things Sutton's ever written.
Ultimately, it's this sense of ambiguity that I love about "The Black Meat." I've listened to it hundreds of times, but I'm still drawn forward every time it comes on. I want to get somewhere with it, to penetrate its melancholy, but it always evaporates before my ears and leaves me with nothing to hold on to. It's strikingly singular, and I can only hope that if Sutton ever feels like releasing any more music (perhaps in 2014, in time to celebrate over 25 years of making music with a third album), he'll write another song like this.