Monday, April 28th, 2014

Nickel Creek – 21st of May

That’s great; it starts with an earthquake…


Patrick St. Michel: They are releasing NPR bumper music as singles now?

Alfred Soto: Honest and proficient. This combo proves young’uns can do bluegrass. What’s next?

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A character study that is both jovial and sinister, turning Biblical apocalypse into a DIY story of self-belief. The calendar date normalizes the whole end of the world vibe, which is an interesting experiment.

Anthony Easton: Nickel Creek play at Baptist revivals, and being Baptist themselves, the actual date of the Second Coming is less important than the act itself. That said, the joy this has at the end of the world, released just before Easter, throws me off a bit. It’s just bad manners to be convinced that you will be saved, and not be the one drowning in the flood.

Brad Shoup: Living within the evangelical church requires the correct proportion of certainty to unease. (Though I’ll admit, unlike Harold Camping, I can only speak for myself.) You’re reliant both on things unseen — past things, things occurring within you, things to come — and on things unheard. All you get to hear is ancient passages, modern interpretations, your own testimony and confessions. All you hear is men, and all you want to hear is one divine whisper. Not an “I am the LORD your God,” necessarily — that’d be nice, yeah, but a “good job, kid” or “you have chosen… wisely” would be enough to last a thousand lifetimes. The beauty of Camping’s campaign was in its earnestness. The unsaved were given ample opportunity to repent; his organization spent boggling sums to spread the message countrywide. It was cousin to the well-fortified geniality practiced by folks who still pop up as Facebook friend requests. It’s a little off-putting to experience, and I wish I could say that I once lived that way, so I get it; maybe, though, my old friends don’t either, they just broadcast what is expected. Sean Watkins largely gives Harold the benefit of the doubt, inhabiting a joyful mind on the brink of glorification, and as such, he’s not given to gloating or second-guessing. The plaintive, sturdy melody might’ve pleased the old man. But then there’s that last verse, in which Watkins leaves his subject for one pointed dig. I was a little bummed he didn’t see it through to the end, but there are limits to identification. Each of us experiences a singular truth.

Edward Okulicz: It’s pop-bluegrass, so being a song of praise is not unexpected, but it’s not just the reference to the Ark that makes it feel like it has the air of a sea-shanty too. That might be key to its likeability even to a non-believer who would like to stay on Earth and commit lots of Biblical sins with the 2001 incarnation of mandolinist Chris Thile. The jauntiness of the music overcomes my aversion to rapture-anticipation, which even at its most earnest always sounds forced to me, and “Hallelujah” is these days totally useable as a secular oath, especially when given harmonies this lovely.

Tara Hillegeist: Plucking as winsomely reedy as the stalks you’d weave to make a basket and as inarguable in their handicraft. Nickel Creek’s warbled harmonies make soul-uneasy anxiety sound warm and welcoming. The lyrical fixation on the 21st of May, taken outside of any biographical context, creates a sentimental grotesque of blinkered specificity. On a bright cold Northern morning like this April day, this kind of barn-friendly spirituality has claws, and they dig in strong. If the hand of some angry heartsick god were to set the world ablaze someday, it may as well be the 21st of May as any other day. It may as well be today. Isn’t that a comforting thought?

Reader average: [6.5] (2 votes)

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3 Responses to “Nickel Creek – 21st of May”

  1. i am going to print brad’s blurb and keep it with my collection of kanye west quotes for enlightenment. that is some of the best writing i’ve read all year.

  2. omg thank you

  3. brad’s qoute is one of the better examples of taking faith seriously as a critic.