I Hope You Hear Me Now
That Fatal Mailing List #57: "I'm Coming Through" (2004)
It must be scary to be a musician who starts writing their own songs.
It’s one thing to interpret the work of others, and if you play other people’s songs long enough, that becomes its own level of creative fulfillment. It almost starts to feel like there’s already a song for every emotion you could want to express. Hell, maybe there is.
When masterful jazz interpreter Diana Krall decided to start writing her own material, she had the advantage of a willing, helpful songwriting partner in her husband, Elvis Costello. For her 2004 album The Girl In The Other Room, Krall enlisted his help to create her first original songs. From her website’s notes on the album:
I wrote the music and then Elvis and I talked about what we wanted to say. I told him stories and wrote pages and pages of reminiscences, descriptions and images, and he put them into tighter lyrical form.
Wikipedia credits Costello on lyrics and Krall on lyrics and music for “I’m Coming Through,” the penultimate song on the album. Other Room concludes with two songs tied to the death of Krall’s mother, and you can hear an ambivalent melancholy in Krall’s musical choices on the song. Although it’s maybe impossible to know who exactly did what, a few lyrical touches are very Costellian; the way each verse opens with such a specific snapshot of a detail–the sparkling band, the twist of lace–feels like something EC might suggest.
There are moments here that suggest maybe the connection Costello and Krall found together has helped tempered the sorrow over her mother’s death. But there are moments of aching loneliness too–the two pairs of shoes by the door that don’t offer any consolation, the way that time suddenly means nothing.
It’s harder to parse the title, “I’m Coming Through,” which is what makes it so evocative and special. You can imagine it referring to a brief visit home, maybe on a tour; it suggests movement through a room, an interruption; it calls to mind a radio signal or a voice trying to reach someone over great distance. “I hope you hear me now,” Krall sings on the chorus, and that feels like the most honest moment in the song–whether the “you” is a missing parent, or a present lover, it’s the connection that matters most, and feels the worst when it’s gone.
Stream here or listen below.
Announcing My Next Substack: Going to a Go-Go
I am starting another Substack!
Aside from my continuing obsession with the music of our favorite painter, Eammon Singer, I love lots of other stuff. I love music of so many different eras and genres; I love dumb and smart movies and TV shows; I love my wife and our kids and our pets.
Going to a Go-Go is a newsletter about lost and underrated songs from the 1950s through the 1970s. Here’s a little blurb from the introduction page:
History is written by the victors, and nowhere is this more true than in pop music, where there’s an established “canon” of our shared history that has plenty of forks and rivulets to explore. Beyond even the dusty corners of that space, there lies the Go-Go. Songs from bands that flared up in a garage or a juke joint just long enough to cut a couple singles and vanish forever. Local and regional hits that dominated the airwaves for a season, a week, a few days—and now live only in faded memories.
It’s these endless tiny pockets of potential, where guys and gals gathered to make music for a million reasons, put their best jams into the universe, and then wisped away like the fog that hugs the grass in the early days of spring. Rock, R&B, soul, pop, instrumental, novelty—so many voices, so many songs and riffs, so much passion and effort and LOVE that’s just floating on the fringe, waiting for you to stretch your fingers just a few inches beyond your comfort zone and grab it.
Please come join me for this new musical adventure! The first installment debuts tomorrow.
Stay sweet. Have a great summer.