When I was earning a paycheque full-time, my morning routine would be to cycle or walk to work, shower, get suited up, eat, and before the office day started, I’d go for a proper cup of coffee at Parlour, a hip coffee shop that had opened in 2011 near the office where I worked.
One morning as I walked in to get the caffeine fix that would help me ease into the day, the opening track of Beck’s 2014 release, Morning Phase, started playing on the shop’s sound system. I was greeted by a former Parlour staffer, Mel, and we talked about how awesome the music was. I bought it later that day. (I still remember one morning in early 2013 when I was in the shop, and Mel knew I was grieving a traumatic loss. As I sat staring blankly into my impeccably made latte, she came over with a plate that had a broken cookie on it. “It’s broken, so I can’t sell it,” she said as she winked, smiled compassionately, and slid the plate toward me. There are small acts of authentic kindness that bring warm feelings, many years after they are offered.)
The opening, instrumental track, “Cycle,” is just 40 seconds long, but it does to my ears, brain and soul what a good massage does to my body… provides an immediate sense of ease. There’s another instrumental track, “Phase,” that creates a bit of a bridge in the album, almost as if to say, “Okay… it’s all okay, just chill.”
The whole album is like that, and one of our sons described it as the most calming album he knows of. But we both agree that track 7, “Wave,” is very dark and disruptive to the chill mood of the rest of the album. I almost never listen to it and, since I often listen to the album on Apple CarPlay when out doing errands in the car, created a playlist of all songs except that one.
Many of the songs have a slow vibe; today’s song is a bit more upbeat, though still keeps that calm mood going. My sweety and I don’t drive our car an awful lot, but when we do, this is good music with which to be stuck in traffic. “Heart Is a Drum,” as the name suggests, has a good beat to it. Though most of the songs have a positive vibe to them, some of the lyrics are about being in conflict, internally or externally, and maybe sometimes both. In that, sense, maybe “Wave” does indeed belong on the album, but I still choose to not listen to it.
I think “Heart Is a Drum” is about getting caught up in a fast pace, caught in the “beat” of life; a life I used to have, but am so fortunate to be away from now.
“Your eyes get stung by the rays of the sinking sun
You follow the drum keeping time with everyone
Going beat beat beat, it’s beating me down
Beat beat beat beat, it’s beating me down
Day after day, it’s turning around
‘Til all my days are drowning out”
(from “Heart Is a Drum,” by Beck Hansen)
(I used to hear one of the above lines as, “Going beep, beep, beep, beeping me down…” which I guess still fits my interpretation of the piece. Now I just chuckle a little to myself each time the line comes on.)
Listening to “Heart Is a Drum” always takes me back to the first time I heard the whole album in Parlour, and the association to that shop takes me back to my earlier memories there, including the one I described with Mel. Owner Nils Vik created (I’m pretty sure) the first of the “third wave” coffee shops that set up in Winnipeg, and he really set the standard. He and his staff created a community of regulars and not-so-regulars, and they make everyone feel welcome. While I am rarely in that area anymore, I try to drop in when I can, to support the shop. Vik is my idea of a model business owner; when his shop was broken into, instead of railing about it, he set out to help an inner-city agency, Main Street Project, that helps people who have had hard lives out on the street. He, like Mel, reminds me that there are good people out there when it seems like everyone is “beat, beat beat, (they’re) beating (us) down.”
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Please enjoy.
Here’s the official video from Beck’s YouTube channel: