I don’t remember where I found “Black Water.” It found me, maybe. Took hold of me gently, the way some digital content floats in front of your consciousness like an ancient sprite, leading you away from your path, erasing your purpose. It was 2012, back when I still called myself a college graduate, before I knew what it was to monetize my time, before 800 numbers from Sallie Mae threatened to garnish my wages. After I got off my nannying job, I would spend my afternoons chain smoking on my porch looking at new music blogs, scrolling through ‘play’ icons with a meditative concentration. I’d give songs about ten seconds to win me over, thirty if it was an artist I knew. If I liked it, I would add it to my library. For what? For nothing. For the pleasure of having it. The day I heard “Black Water” it was late February in Minnesota, and the lyrics “all I need is some sunshine” caught me childlike, like the hey kids from a cereal commercial. Me too, I thought genially, but the delivery is what bed me, this orgasmic groan of pain, deep and feminine over a murky tinkling, a bassline as simple as a fly that dies after mating season. Unlike any other fantasy I recognized, “Black Water” didn’t lead me off a path or through a looking glass, but rather asked me to create a new world for it, an environment where it could exist outside of my headphones.
“Black Water” is the name of a song by Canadian band Timber Timbre, from an album called Creep On Creepin’ On. Paul Thompson at Pitchfork called the album’s style “twisted proto-rock’n’roll… like the Everly Brothers if Susie’d never woken up.” “Black Water” in particular leans away from the white-washed country skiffle of Phil and Don and more toward rock’n’roll’s gospel and blues roots, swinging piano in the lead, like Big Joe Turner’s “Roll ’Em Pete” on a sticky record player. Its lyrics call for sunlight as an antidote to the speaker’s malaise, a neutered, quiet madness brought on by a ill-fated trip beyond the treeline. The situation laid out by “Black Water” is as old as fable, as old as sadness — someone wandered toward something they thought they wanted, something that called to them, siren-like, from an island. They didn’t find what they were looking for, and now, surrounded by black water, they’re alone.