Towards the end of October, during an Indian summer heat-wave, at six o’clock one morning, on Sunset Boulevard between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, a lime green 1973 Citroen SM was approaching the latter city at full speed. The morning was so damp and misty that it was only with great difficulty that the day succeeded in breaking; and it was impossible to distinguish anything more than a few yards away from the automobile windows.
Some of the other drivers on this particular road were returning from late nights; but the morning commuters were the most common cars, chiefly with insignificant persons of various occupations and degrees, starting their journeys at the different points nearer town. All of them seemed weary, and most of them had sleepy eyes and a shivering expression, while their complexions generally appeared to have taken on the colour of the fog outside.
Inside the lime-green Citroen was a young fellow, of about twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age, slightly above the middle height, very fair, with a thin, pointed and very light coloured beard; his eyes were large and blue, and had an intent look about them, yet that heavy expression which some people affirm to be a peculiarity, as well as evidence of an epileptic subject. His face was decidedly a pleasant one for all that; refined, but quite colourless, except for the circumstance that at this moment it was lit up with pure joy, as the young man was enjoying the new record by The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow.
The young man thought to himself: “the music on this album is effortless, refined, emotional, and sparkling with excitement and passion. There is a sophistication to the music that leaves most other bands to emerge on the indie-rock scene in the past few years in the swirling dust. Yes! It is true that the nature of the Shins often rebels against classical pop-rock composition, but that is precisely what gives them their personality… they have achieved a harmony of disparate elements and influences, and managed to create a unity of melody between them all. This is really an album that anyone who likes music would appreciate, and someone with a love of melody and beauty will fall in love with”
Pulling over to the side of the road, the young man got out of the car and began to walk along the street, humming along with the soaring vocals of Shins lead singer, James Mercer. Soon he came across a young woman of intense beauty walking in the opposite direction. It was partly the fact of her marvelous beauty that struck him, and partly something else. There was a suggestion of immense pride and disdain in the face almost of hatred, and at the same time something confiding and very full of simplicity.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but you are exceptionally beautiful and I believe we could become great friends. But first there is something I’d like you to hear, a new album by the Shins, who have created a lasting monument to all that is gorgeous, all that is debased, and all that is both sacred and profane in the world. This album, Chutes Too Narrow, contains songs of remarkable sophistication with soulful guitar tones, eloquent bass lines, and soaring vocals. I think if you and I listened to them together, we could fall in love with the music and with each other, that’s how lovely this music is.”
The beauty, whose name was Natasia Fillip, was well-acquainted with the Shins and had in fact heard their new album on the Sub-Pop website only that night, and had indeed fallen in love with the lush melodies and unexpected twists and turns. She felt the coincidence was a sign from above and that she and this strange young man would forever be linked by love, music, and despair. Still, she had only one word for him:
Listen to the Shins on the Subpop website, it’s streaming for a limited time. There is also an mp3 available.
Read The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky at ibiblio.org