Welcome back to SONG-FREUD, the only music column in the whole world that doubles as a deep cavity search of your favorite Bay Area music. A pro bono psychotherapy session available for your cathartic pleasure, SONG-FREUD is a public service. It’s good karma to write, and good karma to read.
I’m high in the Hollywood Hills, in a hot tub surrounded by three sisters that look a lot like Haim. They’re shooting Cheez Whiz at each other and filming it on Snapchat while Roger grills some vegan dogs and a vinyasa session goes down among the Grecian statues on the other side of the pool. I sigh. I’m on vacation, with my droogs. Father John Misty said that everyman needs a companion, but I think every man needs a week to sip daiquiris and watch beautiful women shoot synthetic cheese product at each other while getting a nice tan. Too much song analysis, like holding the One Ring, can really wear you down.
So I’m up here, my mind a blissful blank. But then a snippet of a song pops into my head. It’s the new Waterstrider track, ‘Calliope,’ a subdued, hypnotic tune that you could probably make out to. And there’s this line: ‘You’re a sight for sore eyes.’ And it’s just going over, and over and over again. Why? What’s going on? I scream at the Cheez Whiz sisters to cut the crap, I gotta think. My whole life flashes before my eyes: Vampire Weekend’s Rastam Batmanglij frowning at me when I bring him dinner in Paris, falling down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., walking the streets of my neighborhood in Oakland. And then, BAM. It was like a nun hearing Yeezus for the first time, I almost lost consciousness. It wasn’t “a sight for sore eyes,” it was a “Site for Sore Eyes,” an eyewear store on Piedmont Avenue, a street I have walked with Nate Salman, the lead singer of Waterstrider!!!
Was it a clue? A plea for help? What had Nate said that fateful day? Vacation was over, a musician needed analysis.
I consulted the Wikipedias; apparently, Calliope isn’t a party drug, but a Greek muse of learning (very Decemberists, Waterstrider). Holy shit, there are so many goddamn book stores on Piedmont Avenue, that must be what he’s getting it. Plato or Camus, maybe. I knew I was on the right track.
Then I watched the video for “Calliope.” One of the scenes looked really, really familiar. Of course…it was the Chapel of the Chimes…on Piedmont Avenue. My heart was beating faster and faster.
Then I got to the chorus of the song: “Give me cover,” Salman pleas. Was it a line in Saving Private Ryan? No, Salman isn’t a military man. Was he naked, and needed cover for his genitals? No, that didn’t make sense either. What kind of cover would he need on Piedmont Avenue? I was shaking at this point; was it the adrenaline, or was I just cold, sitting out in my swimsuit in the middle of the night. I needed a blanket.
Wait…where can you buy blankets on Piedmont Avenue? I used the Googler, where you’ll find all the answers. But, there’s nowhere, now. I gasped. Salman was merely looking for new sheets, but he couldn’t find them on Piedmont Avenue! Was it a mommy issue? Did he have a cosmic connection to that commercial strip? I wasn’t sure, but I knew that I had uncovered a hard truth. Salman is begging for the right to buy a down comforter on the same street as Baja Tacos and Caffe Trieste. He has uncovered a painful injustice in the fabric of Oakland society, hidden within himself. And he’s not happy about it: “Take me away from all this,” he gives in.
I prescribed a trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond. Just bring a nice cup of coffee with you, Nate. It will be like you never left.
Listen to “Calliope” below: