Monday, 9 June 2014

Lovesong: Joe Henry: Invisible Hour

I take all this to be holy

If futile, uncertain and dire

Our union of fracture, our dread everlasting

This beautiful, desperate desire

This morning I read a piece by Andy Miller in The Guardian about how we are losing the ability to read.
You could read the article here.
Yup, you've rumbled me; I wasn't actually rustling a broadsheet but prodding at the online version… a case in point I guess.

"Although we love to argue about books, acquire them, express strong opinions about them, etc, etc, more than ever we seem to be losing the knack of reading them."

It seems to Miller that we are faking cultural literacy; consuming 'Art' has become more about ticking boxes and basking in culture's reflected glory rather than in its actual glow. 
He quotes the writer Eleanor Catton's perception: 

"Consumerism," she writes, "requiring its products to be both endlessly desirable and endlessly disposable, cannot make sense of art, which is neither." 

Could we add that we are also losing the art of listening? 
Particularly listening to music. 
Is your iPod and Spotify on 'Shuffle' folks? 
Do you rely on suggested Playlists for your musical ennui?
I know that I do; and I rally against such thoughtless behaviour.
We all do it and deny ourselves the pleasure of a progressive listen
I believe that artists still ponder long and hard on segues. 
I know that I do...
Come on. 
What was the last album you listened to top to tail? 
Be honest now.
Please list them below; I need some inspiration.
This morning I listened straight to the new Joe Henry album 'Invisible Hour'.

"It wasn't peace I wanted and it wasn't peace I found..."

These are his first words and I'm totally connected. 

"… and our very blood tastes like honey now". 

And then, before I knew it… the album finishes.
I'd been lost; an invisible hour indeed.
I hit replay and… it's even better 2nd time.
I'm currently on my 4th rotation and… not one cup of coffee needed.
Songs really matter to Joe.
Have a look at this excellent short documentary on him:
'The Song That Changed My Life'

"What matters to us, awash in petabytes of data, is not necessarily having actually consumed content first-hand but simply knowing that it exists."

Please, and you'll thank me for this, find your new favorite 'album' today. 
I recommend Joe Henry's new 'Invisible Hour' but Roddy Frame's 'Seven Dials', Simone Felice's 'Strangers', Cherry Ghost's 'Herd Runners' and John Smith's 'Great Lakes' are up there too.
I'm not going to post tracks from any.
Pretty obvious why.
I know that I'm probably preaching to the choir but… it's great to rediscover a lost pleasure.
It made me remember my first listening of Springsteen's 'Darkness on the Edge of Town'.
I was quivering like a shitting dog; at the end of side two I was singing like a tuning fork.
I know, it's bleeding obvious advice, like 'don't drink too much' or 'floss', but some times we all need to be reminded of the bleeding obvious.
Turn off the TV, lose your phone, let the laptop battery go flat. 
Source (or even buy) one of the above albums and for 40 minutes, sit back and reevaluate your losses.
Then make those losses beloved!
Here endeth... 


  1. I have ordered Joe Henry. But have to admit I sneaked a listen on Spotify to a couple of tracks. That is why I use Spotify. As a tool. As you know, I always listen to music. In all forms. But the whole reason I rebought a turntable was to be able to immerse myself in the ritual again. When we listened to vinyl we used to listen to albums all the way through. I wanted that feeling again. Without the teenage fumblings or guitar picking. My first listen of ANY new album is always on headphones with a glass of something. It's the ritual again. As for the last one I listened to all the way through - Brave by Marillion. For the blog. Why? It's a complete story and that's the way to hear it. Like you said - no need to convert me, I'm already in the pulpit :)

  2. I fear that you and I are a dying breed Sir Nick!
    Marillion? My mum knows the lead singer's mum. She makes nice cakes apparently…
    Marcus loves his Joe Henry on vinyl. Did you go that route? If you like the album I'd also rec' 'Civilians' and 'Scar'...

  3. Well spoken Reverend... worthy admonitions all.

    Amen to Brother Nick, I share the sacraments with regards to the headphones on, front-to-back initial listening experience. However in the car I'm woefully guilty of poking at the "shuffle" button... Penance?

    Last album I played right through? Pearlfishers latest 'Open Up Your Colouring Book'. You know I'm a big Pearlies fan, and wish I could say I love this one. It's all very pretty, but a lot of deja-vu in the melodies & not nearly as hooky as usual. And at 65 minutes, Davey Scott's sweet confections become a little too much even for my taste buds. I'm sure Phil will beg to differ... Will attempt listening in the car, on shuffle! Should be a good summer driving album.

    War On Drugs 'Lost In A Dream' continues to get repeated full undivided attention listens. Grandaciel spent two solid years focussed & fussing about to get everything just right for an old-time "album experience" and he aced it...

    Nick, I also recommend Joe Henry's new album. Maybe his best and most accessible. His voice an acquired taste, but the man is a poet...

  4. I will have to get the War In Drugs album, Tim. :)