Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reports of Snow

Break-up albums are at their best when they're painting the break-up as if it were something bigger and badder. Nick Cave spends much of The Boatman's Call acting like his lover died instead of merely leaving; Secrets of the Witching Hour takes the end of a relationship and turns it into the apocalypse, like an epic pop update of The End of the World by Skeeter Davis.

And then there's Reports of Snow. Abe Davies, the man behind Reichenbach Falls, sent me a copy of his album to listen to and, hey, it's good! If you like Wilco and Ryan Adams and the like, you should hop over to bandcamp and give Abe a go because you'll probably like him too.

But I digress. Reports of Snow pulls The Crimea's trick several times over, framing its earth-shattering breakup as a blizzard, a plane crash, a murder, and goodness knows what else. I'm gonna spotlight a few tracks to dig out the guts of this set:
  • Drink & Drive
    This is the opening song, and it serves as a warning of the trouble to come. It opens with a soft, tinkling piano figure that - appropriately enough - sounds just like falling snow; in the chorus, Abe observes that "she's just another way to drink and drive", already aware that this relationship could well end in disaster.

  • In The Wreckage
    By the time we reach track 4, the inevitable split has already hit. In The Wreckage finds Abe waking up on the morning after the break-up as the memories come flooding back to him: "I woke with the blast and remembered, felt myself feeling it all". He then follows "the smoke and the sirens", returns to the place where they "put [them]selves to rest", and picks through the debris, exploring the remains of his dead relationship. Some things, he discovers, were "dead before the blast", suggesting that this calamity may have been a long time coming.

    Oddly, the song's repeated refrain is a holler of "its a miracle!" Is it a miracle that he survived? Or is he happy, on some level, that the dreaded break-up is now over and done with, a thing of the past? Perhaps there is a sense of ripped-off plaster relief in the aftermath: "I think of us as the fallen leaves that never have to fall again".

  • Blessed Blush
    This is where the album's title comes from: "I made up dreams about dying, I made up reports of snow." Why did he make this stuff up? I'm not completely sure that I'm hearing the lyrics correctly, but I think Abe sings that it was "just to leave a trace". When I initially thought about the title, I assumed that the "reports of snow" were those tragic, tell-tale signals that your relationship is heading into dire straits. In the light of that line, though, I wonder if those reports were actually the little lies that our protagonist told his lady friend in the hope that she'd find him a little more interesting, or at least think of him a little more fondly after the end.

  • In The Woods
    When I mentioned murder, this is the track I was talking about. It starts off sounding very creepy indeed: "In the woods, there's a search party now, my room I hid the body" Wow - is this a poetic metaphor, or is he telling us that he literally murdered his girlfriend for breaking up with him?

    But later lines make it clear that the murder simply stands for the end of whatever it was they had: "The grave was the bed where we slept, and carved on the headstone the secrets we kept". If the relationship has died a death, then this song is the funeral, and we are watching the pallbearers lug away the remains.
I recently finished reading a book called This Will End in Tears; it's all about miserable songs of various types, and there's a whole section dedicated to break-up songs. The author mentions the common "heartbreak=death" trope, as seen in He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones and the Nick Cave material that I mentioned earlier. For the various ways in which it portrays breaking up as something far more disastrous, Reports of Snow may well merit a mention in the second edition.

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