This Week’s Playlist for Death Writin’

Working on revisions to the book, and I can’t stop listening to these two songs, which seem germane to big questions showing up in the work.

1. “Virginia Woolf” (live)
-Indigo Girls, 1,200 Curfews

2. “The Wild Kindness”
-Silver Jews, American Water

1,200 Curfews is a live double-album of the Indigo Girls that I listened to a lot in college. In the decade after then, I busied myself discovering what my husband calls “weirdo music,” and set those old tapes aside. And then my last car with a tape deck died.

This last week, I find myself returning to the duo’s first two albums and to this live one–and Marshall has just had to deal with my earnest dishwashing harmonizing and repeated declarations to no one in particular: “That is just a good song!” Rediscovering this fact.

“Virginia Woolf” is one whose particular greatness bypassed me when I was 19, but whose meditation on deep connections between people across time and mortality just floors me now, with the reassurance “It’s all right” repeating into spiraling, gorgeously constructed harmonies that climax at 5:33, a break in Emily Saliers’s voice in this live recording seeming to indicate either some mortal uncertainty or conviction.

“The Wild Kindness” is a song at the end of the album American Water. Somehow, in this age of digital playback, I had forgotten the song existed. Then, earlier this week, I heard, floating across the house from the speakers in the other room, “I’m gonna shine out in the wild silence/and spurn the sin of giving in.” At the tail end of an album that’s about grappling with some cynical, gritty realities as well as internal battles of depression and substance abuse, the sense of redemption in “Wild Kindness” is throat-closingly pure to me. And of course, there’s that wordplay and those simple melodies that make me want to hug David Berman, the (now defunct) band’s songwriter and endearingly oft’ off-key singer.

I’m gonna shine out in the wild kindness
and hold the world to its word.

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