Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Lakes of Canada

I have been listening to this song today, over and over again. You can listen to it here if you'd like. I am not a fisherman, or a boater, so I have no idea really what this song is communicating, but I believe in sudden joy that darts like a fish, a dazzling, darting light in murky darkness. Hell, I've experienced it today getting ready to go to a funeral home. So for those of you who believe in such things, you might like this song. Today, of all days, it is really precious to me.

Look for me another day
I feel that I could change
I feel that I could change

There's a sudden joy that's like
a fish, a moving light;
I thought I saw it
rowing on the lakes of Canada

Oh laughing man
what have you won?
don't tell me what cannot be done.
my little mouth, my winter lungs
don't tell me what cannot be done
cannot be done

Walking in the cirlce of a flashlight
someone starts to sing, to join in
Talk of loneliness in quiet voices
I am shy but you can reach me
rowing on the lakes of Canada
rowing on the lakes of Canada

Oh laughing man
what have you won?
don't tell me what cannot be done
my little mouth, my winter lungs
don't tell me what cannot be done
cannot be done


So look for me another time,
give me another day
I feel that I could change
So look for me another time
give me another day.
I feel that I could change
rowing on the lakes of Canada
rowing on the lakes of Canada
rowing on the lakes of Canada
rowing on the lakes of Canada
-- The Innocence Mission, "The Lakes of Canada"

"I'm in awe of big songs, national anthems, rock opera, the Broadway musical. But what I always come back to, after the din and drum roll, is the small song that makes careful observations about everyday life. This is what makes the music by The Innocence Mission so moving and profound. 'Lakes of Canada' creates an environment both terrifying and familiar using sensory language: incandescent bulbs and rowboats are made palpable by careful rhythms, unobtrusive rhyme schemes, and specificity of language. What is so remarkable about Karen Peris' lyrics are the economy of words, concrete nouns - fish, flashlight, laughing man - which come to life with melodies that dance around the scale like sea creatures. Panic and joy, a terrible sense of awe, the dark indentations of memory all come together at once, accompanied by the joyful strum of an acoustic guitar. This is a song in which everyday objects begin to have tremendous meaning."
-- Sufjan Stevens, on "The Lakes of Canada"

15 comments:

bd said...

I heart Innocense Mission. Just don't listen while operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery.

KarlandBethany said...

Well it looks like I'll be listening to Sarah Wheeler while I mow the lawn tonight. Ms. Peris really reminds me of her. Why? I guess it's the simple soft way she tells a story.

I met Sarah outside Fileen's Basement downtown Boston while I was in college. She was busking and I had a few minutes to stop and listen. I picked up her CD before I hustled off to wherever I was heading.

Just like you, I didn't know what she was singing about but the way she sang it made me want to figure it out. I couldn't put the CD down for about 2 years, and I always stopped to listen when she was playing.

Wonder where she is now?????

KarlandBethany said...

If your interested. I found her website.

http://www.sarawheeler.com/index.htm

Karl.

Anonymous said...

It'd be cool to see your www.last.fm profile.

Andy T said...

That's as sparse as the innocence mission comes. Got to remember to get that on my iPod. Makes sense that Sufjan would be a fan.

Karen said...

i love the innocense mission. when simon was a baby (till about 4 years old), the one cd that would calm him down and help him nap in the car (while on a trip) was their 'christ is my hope' cd. he called it "a calmer song". when he was an infant we had to play it continuously or he would start crying.

kate said...

One of my most favorite memories involves this song. I was visiting some dear friends recently in Indiana, and we were all sitting around the kitchen, talking and eating and getting breakfast together, and the Innocence Mission was playing in the background. My small friend Ethan, age 8, was sitting on a high stool, coloring, and he absentmindedly started singing along with "The Lakes of Canada," lost in his own world. It was lovely.

Gar said...

Thanks for reminding me of this one. It was in heavy rotation a few years ago. Also, reminded me of seeing them here in Nashville at a local club. We got to the show a little late to find that they due to lack of ticket sales all 20-30 people got to sit in a circle around them while they played an acoustic show. Not sure what I paid for that show but, come to think of it, I would have paid triple. Other favorite song of theirs "Wonder Of Birds".....

scott said...

The album that Sufjan Stevens described best with his appreciation of "The small song that makes careful observation about everyday life" has to be John Prine's first album. 30 years later it is still a treasure.

Andy Whitman said...

Scott, I couldn't agree more about that first John Prine album. I wrote about it here: http://www.pastemagazine.com/action/article?article_id=1798

Jeffrey Overstreet said...

I just hosted a "Can you describe the Innocence Mission's music?" contest. The winners are posted at lookingcloser.org.

I'm so glad they remastered and re-released "Birds of My Neighborhood." It's a timeless wonder.

Andy Whitman said...

Karen, the song that worked that way for us when my daughter Emily/Katryn was a toddler was called "True Confessions" by Tonio K. She used to request it every time we got in the car, and would sing along, loudly, at every opportunity to: "It's a jungle out there/It used to be a garden/But the times got tough/Now all those innocent hearts have hardened."

It was always interesting hearing someone in a carseat bellowing that.

Scott Sloan said...

For me being a metal guy, I like the Innocense Mission, especially the album with all the old hymns on it. It is truly beautiful. Karen sings like an angel.

Jeff Cannell said...

This is weird- I've been on vacation for this week and whilst driving home today- I was listening to a mix cd that included all the songs form IM's album "Christ is my hope" as well As Sufjan's "Seven Swans" They go together perfectly. Kathleen insists on going to sleep to their music every night. You can get their prolific Indy releases off their web-site.

Much reccommended!

Bosphorus said...

Andy, I found your site searching technorati looking for Innocence Mission info. Glad to have found your site as I also enjoy Paste magazine.

Could you point me in the direction of other musicians who exhibit similar qualities that Innocence Mission do. I'm looking for music that contains a Christian steeped atmosphere like the Innocence Mission creates so well. I'm also looking Christain music of the sort found on Innocence Mission's Christ is our Hope.

I think what I appreciate about the Innocence mission is their subtlety and attention to detail. I hope you can direct me more of the same.

Glad to have found your blog.