Nick Drake – Pink Moon
I first encountered Nick Drake in the early 2000s when my new computer included Musicmatch, which allowed you to pick an artist you liked and the service would stream songs in a similar vein. Basically, the forerunner of any artist radio channel on Spotify today. I don’t remember who the match was. Probably Elliott Smith. His spare acoustic guitar, (usually) unmessy production and straightforward vocals caught my ear, and I’ve been a fan ever since, so I was very pleased to see this album coming up.
Except, as it turns out, I wasn’t a fan of this particular record. One of the effects of the streaming culture is that you forget where songs, taken out of their original context, first appeared. And most of what I’ve been listening to over the years is from his other two albums. It makes sense, as they are more playlist friendly, with sunnier production and a little less gloomy lyrically. (Reading a Drake lyric sheet is not as a general rule going to brighten your day.) This album is Drake’s voice and acoustic guitar and almost nothing else. After being caught off guard by so much unfamiliarity on the first listen, I dug in and now love it as much as “Five Leaves Left” and “Bryter Layter”. The longing in “Place to Be” hits hard, and “Which Will” and “Things Behind the Sun” are among the more welcoming tracks here. The final track, “From the Morning”, is almost bouncy, and quite hopeful. In the end, it’s a simple record from an incredibly complicated human, and worthy of our attention.
As a side note, Drake’s mom, Molly, was also a singer and songwriter, though none of her work was released during her lifetime. A few years back, an album of home recordings from the 1950s was released. It’s a bit of a slog at times – accompanied only by piano, her voice is limited and untrained, and the lo-fi production wears over the course of 26 songs. But there is one genuine masterpiece, “I Remember”, a bittersweet reminiscence that reminds us that a shared experience isn’t a shared response to that experience. (Also, the guy in this song seems like a total dick. Molly, I hope it isn’t about the guy you married.)
(Originally posted on Facebook, May 22, 2021)