366 Songs 106: Train Song

I found this song via a compilation on iTunes that I can’t even remember anymore, where it appeared as a cover version by Ben Gibbard and Feist that’s actually far superior to the original, for me. What makes the latter work and the former not in my eyes (in my ears?) is the vocal; Vashti Bunyan may have been the first person to sing this song, but her vocal has that awkward, strained precious quality of a lot of 1960s female folk singers, where their range sounds as if they’re desperately trying to avoid the lower notes as if that would somehow undercut their gender even if it makes them sound breathless and weepy as a result (Is this just me? Mary Hopkins has the same thing). Compare Vashti’s vocal with the Gibbard/Feist version, and the latter just sounds more natural, with a sadness that fits the lyrics:

Besides the gentle melancholy of the instrumentation and melody, the lyrics explain why I love this song as much as I do: “What will I do if there’s someone there with you?” is a great line for a song about returning to a former lover, but it’s somehow eclipsed by the implications of the follow-up, “Maybe someone you’ve always known?” The insecurity there is just beautiful in its honesty, humanity and vulnerability. There’s an entire world in those two lines, everything inside them and left unsaid.