This version is taken from this video, okay. The real “Ocean Roar” is out there, and it’s wonderful, but in this version, you can hear Phil’s words more clearly, and those words are important, whittled down from pure experience into koanic components of a song. Ocean Roar, the album, is supposed to be about Phil Elverum’s recollections of a (dreamt of?) midnight road trip to the shore that happened twenty years ago. The lyrics are something like this:
One voice heard across the water through ocean roar. Lost in thought. The mind wandering again, drifting west over the hills. Sitting in the car, after the music stopped abrupt. We arrived in the dark, lost and disoriented. As the car cooled down, the sound of waves rose and blanketed. Our minds grew into a vast night. We made beds in the ditch. The loud breath of surf, exhaling and constant. Sleeping on the wet ground. In a dream I swam out past waves roaring and broad deep sky.
What I consistently enjoy about his lyrics is the way that a lot of his phrases, his simple descriptions, open up worlds of associations. There’s repetition: roar and lost, and some close-rhymes between car and dark, loud and ground. There’s something like the qualities of a Hemingway short story about this–only the essential elements have been retained. The lines in the song are there because they are the right lines for this song, for this experience. There’s a pretty incredible lyric from “Through the Trees pt. 2” on Clear Moon where Phil sings, “I meant all my songs/not as a picture of the woods/but just to remind myself/that I briefly live.”
Just returned from a two-week road trip from PA to CA. Went through Tennessee and of course stopped at Graceland. I think before seeing that place my feelings about Elvis could be accurately characterized as something like ‘faint affection.’ My mother and grandmother were and still are huge fans of him and his music, and I had heard stories, about the movies, the TV appearances, the 45s, all that, all the importance of his work in their lives, though on some level it never came through clearly because the man died three years before I was born and I never perceived the real impact of his celebrity for myself. I knew enough about him when I was younger to understand the jokes about his later, sweatier years, which through the impressions of comedians et al. made him seem like a pathetic figure who was holding onto a fame that had fled and attached itself to others a long time prior.
Going to Graceland was not even high on my list of things to do while in Memphis. I thought it would be overrun with tourists, and the mansion itself would be like a tricked-out 70s bootleg Disneyland, covered in mirrors (there were some) and shag carpet (also present). Somehow it ends up that one good way to understand a man is to see how he decorates and appoints his house when given the equivalent spending and acquisition power of the Count of Monte Cristo. In Elvis’s case, it meant buying a relatively modest mansion and installing his family there and ensuring that they were all comfortable and happy and never lacking for anything for the rest of their lives. A kitchen that never stopped serving food. A television room painted in bright blues and yellows, adorned with three TVs. A pool room, covered in folded, patterned drapery from floor to ceiling, so ugly and bizarre and crammed with knickknackery that it seemed like a very personal statement and for that reason was beautiful, and the jungle room, the living room, pictured above, with its green shag carpet on floor and ceiling, it’s circular chair in the corner, its waterfall, its windows on the lawn. He liked to have a good time–that much was clear in every detail of the house that was on display–and that desire seemed like it radiated out from him with force and affected the polarity of others. What kind of man makes an impromptu flight with his daughter to Colorado because he realizes that she’d never played in the snow? I couldn’t wrap my head around his life before, and I still can’t, but being in Graceland and seeing how he lived at home (or at least the remaining pieces of his home) helped me understand a little bit about why and how he became so important to so many people.
“It’s Now or Never” played over the speakers in a Mexican restaurant in California five days after the Graceland visit, during a dinner that, if I could, I would re-live over and over again.