Nightswimming. It’s something I love to do and do often. Of a summers evening, I walk down to the pool to carry out my pre-bedtime routine of floating and dodgy aquatic tai chi to slow my mind and body. I’m not in for long – maybe ten or fifteen minutes – and then I run upstairs, get under a hot shower and plonk myself into bed.
As a song it fills my cup, and while I’ll spare you an exegesis on why I think this song is unparalleled in its sound and meaning (and one of the best songs of the 90s), I will say this – the lambency that comes from the circular rhythm of the piano, the uncluttered strings and Michael Stipe’s reeling voice has an immense power. Like last weeks song ‘Nightswimming’ has a sparsity about it and I’ve always found that when singing ballads, Stipe sounds as though he is almost mortally wounded which is strangely comforting.
Released in 1993, R.E.M was always going to be a pearler of a song thanks to a string arrangement by Led Zeppelin’s bassist John Paul Jones. Having JPJ at the helm is a no brainer for music gold and ‘Nightswimming‘ is proof of that.
There’s a sauntering innocence and simplicity about the words, yet there’s a great richness where every strike of a piano key and every draw of a bow across a cello lends itself to the power of the song. While there’s a myriad of theories surrounding what the song is about, for me it is representative of memory; of remembering an age of where innocence has been usurped by having to grow up too fast – a theme that certainly resonates with me. Its gentle restraint is an ideal song to reflect on life – past, present and future – and it’s a song that makes me stop what I’m doing and be present.
‘September’s coming soon, I’m pining for the moon.’
Ah, yes – always pining for the moon.
‘Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.’
Yes. Yes, it does.