Near the end of August of last year, I had the opportunity to interview Christina Gleixner about the home recording project she’d undergone to help pay for the next Low Branches studio release. At the time, not many details on the album were available, other than the fact that they’d done some production work with John Morand at Sound of Music, some themselves, and that the final product was to be titled One Hundred Years Old (or 100 Years Old, as I styled it at the time).
Exactly four months after that interview was published, the album’s title track hit the interweb via Richmond Playlist, and I haven’t been able to get over how much I love it… in large part because I can’t seem to get it out of my head.
It’s incredible. Usually the song-stuck-in-head phenomenon is an acute condition, something short-lived and easily cured by listening to the tune that brought it on. But this has been different. I first heard “One Hundred Years Old” more than a week and a half ago, and it’s still surfacing in the back of my consciousness at random moments throughout the day — moments that bear no discernible correlation with the song itself. Walking into work. Doing the dishes. If no other music is playing, “One Hundred Years Old” is there, expanding to fit the brain space left unoccupied.
I have two main theories as to why this is, the first of which credits Gleixner’s voice. This is quite simply the best I’ve ever heard it, with beauty and subtlety embedded in a greater tone of authority, transmitting the kind of wisdom befitting a song about advice handed down from one generation to the next. It’s an amazing performance, one that resonates deeply and makes the song feel like it’s somehow already stood the test of time. Really, really cool.
So that’s my first theory. My second is a little more out there, and it deals with the song’s structure. “One Hundred Years Old” is split into two halves, the first of which is incredibly sparse, just vocals and faint, mournful-sounding drumming. The second half is relatively sparse as well, but the additional tonal instrumentation lends context to the vocal melody, giving the arrangement a feeling of completeness that the first half withholds. But here’s the interesting thing — each additional time I’ve heard it, I’ve involuntarily tried to supplant the instrumentation from the second half onto the first. It’s not unlike how your brain tries to fill in missing information when presented with an optical illusion. And the more I listen, the stronger the effect becomes. It’s almost as if the first half of “One Hundred Years Old” turns your brain into an instrument, one that gets louder with each successive 70-second performance. How cool is that?
No wonder my brain has been periodically plucking the arpeggiated chords that kick in at the 71-second mark. See for yourself by listening to “One Hundred Years Old” a few times below. If you end up as addicted as I am, be sure not to miss the album’s release party, which is being held on Saturday, January 19 at Gallery 5.
The Low Branches — “One Hundred Years Old” [Soundcloud]